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Library of the Marine Corps 




U.S. Marine Corps 

PCN 142 000003 00 



Headquarters United States Marine Corps 

Washington, DC 20380-1775 

21 February 1997 


Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication (MCDP) 4, Logistics, de- 
scribes the theory and philosophy of military logistics as 
practiced by the United States Marine Corps. It provides all 
Marines a conceptual framework for the understanding and 
practice of effective logistics. The Marine Corps' view of lo- 
gistics is based on our common understanding of the nature of 
war and on our warfighting philosophy as described in MCDP 
1, Warfighting. 

Our doctrine recognizes that logistics is an integral part of 
warfighting. Logistics provides the resources of combat 
power, brings those resources to the battle, and sustains them 
throughout the course of operations. Our approach to logistics 
recognizes that war is conducted in an environment of com- 
plexity, fluidity, disorder, and uncertainty and seeks to pro- 
vide the commander with the physical means to win in this 
environment. Our logistic capabilities extend our operational 





limits, allowing us to anticipate requirements while remaining 
flexible, adaptable, and responsive to changing conditions in 
the battlespace. 

Chapter 1 is based upon the assumption that in order to de- 
velop an effective philosophy of logistics, we must first de- 
velop a realistic understanding of the nature of logistics. 
Based upon this understanding, chapter 2 discusses the theo- 
retical aspects of logistics. Building upon the conclusions of 
the preceding chapters, chapter 3 describes the basic approach 
of the Marine Corps to logistics. 

MCDP 4, Logistics, does not supersede any current doc- 
trinal publication. It provides the authoritative basis for the 
subsequent development of logistic doctrine, education, train- 
ing, equipment, procedures, and organization. Logistics af- 
fords no specific techniques or procedures for logistic 
activities; rather, it offers broad guidance which requires 
judgment in its application. Other publications in the logistics 
series of Marine Corps warfighting publications provide spe- 
cific tactics, techniques, and procedures. 

Marine Corps logistic doctrine applies across the full 
spectrum of conflict from peacekeeping or humanitarian as- 
sistance operations on one hand to general war on the other. 
Furthermore, this publication pertains equally to small-unit 
leaders and senior commanders. Since logistics is an essential 

component of any military activity, this publication is meant 
to guide Marines at all levels of command in both the operat- 
ing forces and the supporting establishment. 


ine Corps 
arine Corps 

DISTRIBUTION: 142 000003 00 

© 1997 United States Government as represented by the Sec- 
retary of the Navy. All rights reserved. 



Chapter 1. The Nature of Logistics 

What Is Logistics? — How Important Is Logistics? — 
Characteristics of hogistics— Logistics as Science-Logistics as 
Art-Logistics as Relationships-Logistics as Organization-Logistics 
as a Complex System — ^Logistics and Wor-The Human 
Dimension-Violence and Danger-Friction-Uncertainty- Fluidity- 
Disorder — ^Logistics and Operations — Conclusion 

Chapter 2. Logistics Theory 

The Evolution of Logistics — The Logistics Process — 
Functional Areas of Logistics — Levels of Logistics — 
The Logistics SystQm-Distribution Systems-Command 
and Control — Effectiveness Versus Efficiency — 
Approaches to Logistics — Conclusion 

Logistics MCDP 4 

Chapter 3. Creating Effective Logistics 

The Challenge to Logistics — Maneuver WsLrfaro-Centers of 
Gravity and Critical Vulnerabilities— Focus of Effort and the Main 
Effort— Tempo-Commander 's Intent — Marine Logistics— Core 
Capabilities— Planning— Command and Control — Building 
Ca.pabi\itiQS— Leadership-Discipline— Attention to Detail— 
Responsiveness— Doctrine— Education— Training— Procedures- 
Organization— Equipment and Technology — Conclusion 


Chapter 1 

The Nature of 

"Throughout the struggle, it was in his logistic inability to 
maintain his armies in the field that the enemy 's fatal weak- 
ness lay. Courage his forces had in full measure, but courage 
was not enough. Reinforcements failed to arrive, weapons, 
ammunition and food alike ran short, and the dearth of fuel 
caused their powers of tactical mobility to dwindle to the van- 
ishing point. In the last stages of the campaign they could do 
little more than wait for the Allied advance to sweep over 
them. "^ 

— Dwight Eisenhower 

"As we select our forces and plan our operations, .... [w]e 
must understand how logistics can impact on our concepts of 
operation. . . . Commanders must base all their concepts of 
operations on what they know they can do logistically. "^ 

-A. M. Gray, Jr. 

MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

To conduct logistics effectively, we must first under- 
stand its fundamental nature — its purpose and its char- 
acteristics — as well as its relationship to the conduct of mili- 
tary operations. This understanding will become the basis for 
developing a theory of logistics and a practical guide to its 

What is logistics? 

Logistics is the science of planning and carrying out the 
movement and maintenance of forces.^ Logistics provides the 
resources of combat power, positions those resources on the 
battlefield, and sustains them throughout the execution of op- 
erations. Logistics encompasses a wide range of actions and 
the relationships among those actions, as well as the resources 
that make those actions possible. These actions are all given 
purpose and definition by the larger art of war, of which lo- 
gistics is a critical and inseparable part. 

Actions that fall into the category of logistics are both 
humble and magnificent, include both the simple and the 
complex, and range in size from the tiny to the gargantuan. 
They include the serving of a single meal, the effective distri- 
bution of tens of thousands of separate spare parts, and the 
movement of vast armadas from one comer of the globe to 
another. The common thread that unites these otherwise dis- 
parate activities is their relationship to the physical needs of a 

Logistics MCDP 4 

military force. Any action that serves to transport a military 
force from one place to another, provide it with the physical 
means of waging war, or preserve its combat power for subse- 
quent employment belongs properly to the realm of logistics. 

Logistics can also be described as the bridge which con- 
nects a nation's economy to its warfighting forces. Logistics 
provides the means which translates national resources into 
combat power. Logistics transforms manpower, natural re- 
sources, and industrial capacity into units, weapons, equip- 
ment, and supplies. It delivers these elements to the theater of 
operations at the time and place dictated by operational re- 
quirements. It sustains the military forces throughout the 
course of operations. It returns those forces to their home 
bases when operations are concluded, rearming and reequip- 
ing them as needed in preparation for the next action. 

The term "logistics" is also used to describe activities in 
the civilian or commercial world. In this usage, logistics de- 
scribes the process of procurement, maintenance, distribution, 
and replacement of resources conducted by corporations, 
firms, or industries. These activities have many points in 
common with military logistics and can serve as a source of 
concepts, techniques, and technologies of great interest to 
military logisticians. Nonetheless, civilian logistics lacks the 
warlike purpose that defines military logistics and is thus fun- 
damentally different. In this publication, the term "logistics" 
therefore describes military logistics. 

MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

The terms "logistics" and "combat service support" are of- 
ten used interchangeably, but there is a distinction. "Logis- 
tics" is the larger of the two concepts. Logistics encompasses 
all actions required to move and maintain forces. This in- 
cludes the acquisition and positioning of resources as well as 
the delivery of those resources to the forces. "Combat service 
support" is the activity which actually provides services and 
supplies to the combat forces. Since most of the delivery of 
resources occurs at the tactical level of war, combat service 
support has been considered to be essentially the same as tac- 
tical logistics. Indeed, Marine tactical units have logistics of- 
ficers and logistics sections, but the units that perform 
logistics functions for these units are referred to as combat 
service support elements. However, some combat service 
support is conducted at the operational and strategic levels. 
For example, health services are provided at the strategic and 
operational levels through the use of hospital ships, fleet hos- 
pitals, and permanent military medical facilities. Conversely, 
some limited aspects of tactical logistics do not directly corre- 
spond to combat service support. (See figure 1, page 6.) 


Logistics is part and parcel of any attempt to conduct military 
operations. It is critical to the creation, maintenance, deploy- 
ment, and employment of forces as well as to the redeploy- 
ment, reconstitution, and regeneration of those forces after 



Level of War 

Level of War 

Figure 1. Logistics and combat service support. 

their employment. Without logistics, war as a deliberate, or- 
ganized activity would be impossible. Without logistics, mili- 
tary units cannot be raised or equipped. Without logistics, 
forces cannot reach the battlefield. Without logistics, weap- 
ons go without ammunition, vehicles go without fuel, equip- 
ment breaks and stands idle, the sick and wounded go 
untreated, troops go without food, shelter, and clothing. Thus, 
logistics establishes limits on what is operationally possible. 
Nevertheless, while logistics sets the limits, the goal of our 
logistics effort is to extend those limits as far as possible. 

MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

Logistics plays a significant role in any military action, 
whether the action is part of a war, a military operation other 
than war, or even a training exercise. Whenever military units 
are employed, they must be deployed and sustained. In fact, 
logistic activities are conducted much the same way in peace 
as they are in war or military operations other than war. Un- 
like certain functions which are conducted only in war, logis- 
tics is always "on." 

Logistics is concerned with the provision and allocation of 
resources. The conduct of war or military operations other 
than war normally requires extensive resources. However, the 
resources available to create and sustain combat power are al- 
most always limited. Demand usually exceeds supply. Logis- 
tics helps to ensure the effective use of limited resources. 
Logistics assists the commander in making best use of the 
available resources to accomplish the mission. 

Logistics by itself cannot win wars, but it has been the ma- 
jor contributing factor in losing many wars, particularly in the 
20th century. At the strategic level, the inability of a nation to 
generate sufficient forces, move them to the front, and sup- 
port them once engaged invariably leads to deterioration of 
the forces' material condition, morale, and tactical capability. 
This deterioration can be slow, as in the European theater 
during World War II, or it can occur relatively quickly, as it 
did in Desert Storm. Both the will and the ability to fight 
erode, often leading to collapse and defeat. 

Logistics MCDP 4 

The impact of logistics inadequacies at the operational and 
tactical levels is similar. Grand schemes and operational de- 
signs never get off the drawing board for want of adequate lo- 
gistic support. History is filled with examples of forces 
missing or failing to exploit opportunities because of their in- 
ability to logisticly sustain gains resulting from success in in- 
dividual battles or engagements. On the Western front in 
World War I, both sides repeatedly demonstrated that it was 
possible to penetrate the lines of defensive trenches and forti- 
fications; what they could not do was exploit the penetrations 
once made, primarily due to their inability to support the ad- 
vancing units. 

Logistics is so important that it frequently shapes the de- 
signs of campaigns, battles, and engagements. Major opera- 
tions within a campaign are frequently conducted solely for 
the purpose of developing the logistics capability required to 
sustain the campaign as a whole. The island-hopping cam- 
paign in the Pacific during World War II was largely dictated 
by the need to acquire advanced air and naval bases necessary 
to support forces striking at the Japanese homeland. Con- 
versely, because of their importance to military effectiveness, 
the logistics capabilities of the adversary are often critical 
vulnerabilities; supply bases, lines of communications, and 
combat service support units are always key targets and often 
become the focal point for engagements and attacks. 

MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

Characteristics of logistics 

Logistics is a complex phenomenon that defies easy explana- 
tion. Any short definition, particularly one limited to a single 
sentence or paragraph, will invariably fail to give a complete 
picture of what logistics is and what good logistics requires. 
Using the basic description of logistics provided above, we 
now examine the various characteristics of logistics. 

Logistics as Science 

Of all the major functions that affect the outcome of war, lo- 
gistics is the most concrete. In fact, logistics has been one of 
the few aspects of war that has been consistently described as 
a science. This means that logistics benefits from a body of 
facts, relationships, and rules that can be put to use by those 
who can study and master them. These facts, relationships, 
and rules can form the basis for calculation, deduction, and, 
within the limits set by the essentially chaotic nature of war, 

Because of this greater degree of regularity, logistics is an 
area in which extensive calculation is both possible and nec- 
essary. The number and types of ships needed to move a 
given force from one place to another, the fuel consumed by a 
unit making a road march, and the spare parts needed to sup- 
port a certain fleet of vehicles can all be calculated ahead of 
time. The tools of the civilian engineer — standard planning 

Logistics MCDP 4 

factors, formulas, calculations, and rules of thumb — are thus 
of great use to logisticians. 

This is not to say that logistics is perfectly predictable. On 
the contrary, anything that touches upon war, and certainly 
something as central to war as logistics, is greatly affected by 
the chaos that is at the very heart of warfare. Nonetheless, be- 
cause the obstacles that must be overcome in order to move 
and sustain forces — ^time, distance, and terrain — are generally 
passive, the relationship between inputs and outcomes is far 
more regular in logistics than in tactics, operations, strategy, 
intelligence, or command. 

Because logistics is a science, it must be thoroughly under- 
stood before it is applied. This means that the logistician must 
do more than pull planning factors out of a book or apply an 
existing template to a new situation. The logistician must 
think each problem through, understanding the major assump- 
tions that underlie the calculations and the implications of any 
change in those assumptions. In other words, the science of 
logistics requires that its practitioners understand not only the 
various elements of logistics but the relationships between 

Despite the strong scientific character of logistics, no sin- 
gle theory underlies the many activities that come under the 
heading of logistics. The reason is twofold. The first is the 
great variety of things that must be done in order to move and 
sustain a fighting organization. The second is that logistics is 


MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

defined less by a set of activities than by its results. To use a 
simple example, the purpose of logistics is not to use a par- 
ticular technique to move so many gallons of fuel or tons of 
ammunition, but to ensure that the fuel and ammunition are in 
the right place at the right time. 

In contrast to the pure sciences, in which knowledge may 
be accumulated for its own sake, logistics exists solely for the 
purpose of supporting military operations. Thus, logistics is 
an applied science, an endeavor in which the difference be- 
tween success and failure is a function not only of knowledge 
but of the techniques, tools, skills, and will to put that knowl- 
edge to use. Indeed, the use of logistics is so important that it 
makes sense to describe logistics as an art as well as a sci- 
ence, a critical and inseparable part of the larger art of war. 

Logistics as Art 

While some aspects of war fall principally in the realm of sci- 
ence, an even greater part of the conduct of war falls in the 
realm of art. Art includes the creative application of scientific 
knowledge through judgment, experience, and intuition to de- 
vise practical solutions. In logistics, as in all other aspects of 
war, it is crucial to develop a vision of what needs to be done 
and how to do it. In addition to technical skill, development 
of this vision requires creativity, insight, and the ability to 
recognize and assess risk. Mechanical and inflexible applica- 
tion of procedures and formulas can lead to paralysis and fail- 
ure. Logistics must supplement analysis and calculation with 


Logistics MCDP 4 

foresight and intuition in order to anticipate future require- 
ments. When circumstances change, logisticians must be 
flexible and ingenious in adapting to the new situation. Crea- 
tivity, boldness, daring, and a willingness to innovate or even 
improvise when necessary are required to exercise the art of 
logistics. When balanced with sound judgment and decision- 
making skills, application of these characteristics provides the 
basis for successful logistics. 

Logistics as Relationships 

In logistics, as with any other aspect of the art of war, "the es- 
sential thing is action."^ However refined, extensive, or accu- 
rate the science of logistics may be, it can be translated into 
the fact of effective logistics only if a large number of people 
do the right thing at the right time. Some of the actions that 
make up effective logistics are routine and are thus governed 
by preexisting rules and procedures. Other actions are ad hoc, 
taken in response to particular situations. The common de- 
nominator that unites these actions is their relationship to the 
definitive tasks of logistics, the movement and maintenance 
of forces. Thus, if an action helps to move or maintain a 
force, it is part of logistics. 

The actions that comprise logistics are rarely isolated. 
Rather, they are but small steps in long, interrelated, and 
highly complex chains of activity. Originating in the civilian 
economy, resources pass through the levels of war and many 
echelons of command, connected by a network of logistics 


MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

systems and processes. The intricacy of these relationships 
quickly becomes evident to anyone who tries fully to de- 
scribe, by narrative or flowchart, all the logistic activities of 
even the most rudimentary military force. Nonetheless, any 
understanding of the logistics of a particular force depends 
heavily upon a good sense of the nature of these relationships. 

The classic technique for making sense of these relation- 
ships is to reduce them into abstractions such as lines of com- 
munications, kinds of logistics at each level of war, and 
echelons of various sorts. These abstractions are simultane- 
ously useful and dangerous. They are useful because they 
provide a shorthand that often captures one or more important 
features of a relationship — for example, its scale or geo- 
graphic location. These abstractions are dangerous because 
they mask the inherent complexity of logistic relationships 
and often make them seem more straightforward than they 
really are. 

Logistics as Organization 

Because of its inherent complexity, logistics requires the sus- 
tained, creative, and systematic cooperation of large numbers 
of people. Such cooperation can be achieved only by means 
of deliberate, well-considered, and custom-tailored organiza- 
tion. Because of this, it is as impossible to speak of logistics 
without discussing logistics organizations as it is to explain 
modem medicine without mentioning hospitals. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

The concept and details of organization for logistics can 
vary greatly. Factors such as geography, the national econo- 
mies involved, enemy action, the organization and warfight- 
ing philosophy of the forces being moved and maintained, 
and the dynamics of the v^ar being fought all play a role in 
determining the best logistics organization for a given force. 
It is even quite possible that the various activities of logistics 
will be carried out by a number of different organizations.^ 

The common denominator in all healthy logistics organiza- 
tions is the combination of a shared vision and initiative. The 
shared vision, promulgated by means of a common organiza- 
tional culture and the expressed views of leaders, allows the 
various parts of a logistics organization to set objectives, es- 
tablish standards, and measure the usefulness of their work. 
Initiative makes it possible for all parts to solve the problems 
that they face and overcome the obstacles that stand in their 
way in a timely and effective manner. 

Logistics as a Complex System 

Military organizations and military evolutions are complex 
systems. A complex system is any system composed of multi- 
ple parts, each one of which must act individually according 
to its own circumstances and which, by so acting, changes the 
circumstances affecting all other parts. Military forces are 
constantly evolving, changing their size, composition, organi- 
zation, and capabilities in response to the environment in 


MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

which they operate. Because of this, the logistics organiza- 
tions that move and maintain these forces must evolve as 
well. In responding to change, a healthy logistics organization 
functions as a complex system, operating within the complex 
system of the military force it supports.^ 

The most important implication of this is that a logistics 
organization will rarely, if ever, achieve a state where "every- 
thing goes like clockwork." Indeed, such extreme regularity 
is a sign that stagnation has set in and the system is probably 
not adapting to changing circumstances. A healthy logistics 
organization will thus be a work in progress with some ele- 
ments in a relatively stable condition and many others in a 
state of flux. In times of crisis, when circumstances are 
changing rapidly and swift adaptation is required, logistics or- 
ganizations are likely to function in nonstandard ways. Peri- 
ods in which the system operates in a regular and orderly 
fashion will alternate with periods in which it is in consider- 
able turmoil. 

Logistics and war 

The character of any war is shaped to a significant degree by 
the logistics concepts and capabilities employed to move and 
sustain the forces of each belligerent. At the same time, what 
we ask of logistics and what logistics is able to provide are 
profoundly influenced by the particular circumstances of a 


Logistics MCDP 4 

war, campaign, or battle. These circumstances include, but 
are not limited to, geography, climate and weather, resources, 
technology, population, culture, politics, style of warfare em- 
ployed by forces, scale, skill of commanders, and goals pur- 
sued by the various combatants. Moreover, because all of 
these factors may interact with each other to produce unpre- 
dictable or undesirable results, logistics is often affected ftir- 
ther by the dynamics of a particular battle or campaign as it 

What a military force is physically able to do is limited by 
the way it is moved and supplied. An army supplied from 
bases along a single line of communications cannot execute 
movements, however promising they might be, if those ma- 
neuvers take it very far away from that line. The style of war 
employed by a military force is intimately linked to its logis- 
tics capabilities. The grand maneuvers that made Bonaparte 
the master of central Europe were dependent upon the Napo- 
leonic system of drawing the bulk of needed supplies from 
towns, fields, and granaries in the theater of operations. 
When, in places like Spain and Russia, these proved inade- 
quate, the rapid movement of large masses of men and horses 
so necessary to Bonaparte's success was no longer possible. 
The materiel- intensive style of warfare employed by armed 
forces of the Republic of Vietnam proved successftil in the 
early 1970s, when the requisite mountains of supplies were 
provided by the United States. When these supplies were no 
longer available, the same style of warfare was unable to pre- 
vent a catastrophic defeat.^ 


MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

Great feats of arms have often been made possible by the 
skillful exploitation of special capabilities in logistics. For his 
conquest of the Persian empire, Alexander the Great condi- 
tioned his troops to march with a minimum of baggage, and 
he developed an intelligence system that made him aware of 
the location of sources of food and fodder along his route of 
march. For the British fighting in Spain during the Napo- 
leonic wars and the Marines who fought in the mobile phase 
of the Korean war, the advantage was control of the sea, 
which allowed operational movement and the provision of lo- 
gistic support that was largely independent of traditional lines 
of communications. The dynamic two-division assault into 
Kuwait conducted by the First Marine Expeditionary Force (I 
MEF) during Desert Storm was made possible by the MEF's 
ability to create a massive forward logistic support base in the 
middle of the desert immediately before the beginning of the 
ground offensive.^ The expeditionary logistics capabilities in- 
herent in modem amphibious forces enabled the 24th Marine 
Expeditionary Unit to establish forward support bases hun- 
dreds of miles inland in Turkey and northern Iraq in support 
of humanitarian assistance operations during 1991.^ 

Just as logistics does much to shape the operations of war, 
the changing fortunes of war often have a profound effect on 
logistics. The winning or losing of a battle, the gain or loss of 
an ally, the movement of forces from one geographical area 
to another, and even significant changes in popular opinion 
and sympathies can often force radical changes in the way 
that a force is moved and supplied. For the first part of the 


Logistics MCDP 4 

American War of Independence, the size, staying power, and 
operational mobility of George Washington's Continental 
Army was hampered by a logistics system based on an insuf- 
ficient number of wagons moving on poorly maintained 
roads. The alliance with France brought with it the capability 
to supply the Continental Army by sea and thus made possi- 
ble the massing and maintenance of the force that won the de- 
cisive victory at Yorktown. The capture of Seoul by United 
Nations' forces in the immediate aftermath of the Inchon 
landing in 1950 deprived the North Korean army of its logis- 
tics infrastructure and its lines of communications. '° The de- 
ployment of the 22d Marine Expeditionary Unit to conduct 
noncombatant evacuation operations in Liberia during 1990 
was initially envisioned as a short-duration mission. As 
events unfolded, the unstable security situation in Liberia re- 
quired an extended commitment of amphibious forces, in turn 
necessitating the establishment of an extensive logistics pipe- 
line to support the U.S. Embassy as well as the military units 
participating in the operation. 

The Human Dimension 

Though logistics deals primarily with the physical world, it 
has a considerable effect on the moral aspect of war. (The 
term moral as used here is not restricted to ethics, but pertains 
to those forces of a psychological rather than a tangible na- 
ture.) The moral aspect is significant because war is above all 
a human endeavor. War is a contest between hostile, opposing 
wills, a struggle in which moral factors — resolve, fear, 


MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

courage, morale, leadership, will, esprit — are often more im- 
portant than mental or physical ones/' 

Logistics plays an important role in the cohesion of a fight- 
ing force. By providing the necessities of life, effective logis- 
tics frees members of that force from preoccupation with their 
own needs. This allows them to focus their physical and men- 
tal energies on their military duties. By providing the means 
of waging war, effective logistics not only gives fighters the 
means of dealing with the physical challenges they face but 
also gives them the sense of being part of a large and power- 
ftil team. By displaying economy, adaptability, fairness, flexi- 
bility, and innovation, a logistics system can foster the sense 
that those in charge know what they are doing. In other 
words, good logistics reinforces the moral authority of 

The link between logistics and the human dimension of 
war can be seen during World War I in the German spring of- 
fensive of 1918. Because of the repeated failure of the Ger- 
man logistics system to provide adequate food and clothing to 
frontline troops, once German soldiers penetrated the Allied 
lines, many spent their time looting captured Allied supply 
depots. Indeed, so great was the sense of privation of many of 
these soldiers that they looted items that were of no immedi- 
ate use to them — such as writing paper and shoe polish — sim- 
ply because they had been in short supply. The immediate, 
physical effect of the looting was to slow down the tempo of 
the German attack and thus give the Allies time to bring up 


Logistics MCDP 4 

reinforcements and establish new defenses. More importantly, 
the psychological effect of the sharp contrast between Allied 
plenty and German shortages contributed to the widespread 
belief within the German forces that eventual Allied victory 
was inevitable. 

While logistics can have a profound effect on morale and 
combat effectiveness, the performance of the logistics func- 
tion is greatly affected by the human aspects of warfare as 
well. Like other military units, logistics units are composed of 
human beings whose capacity for action depends heavily on 
moral factors. Leadership, the maintenance of unit cohesion, 
and the provision of a clear sense of purpose are as important 
to the motivation and capabilities of logistics units as they are 
to the performance of military units of other kinds. High mo- 
rale among logisticians can, by itself, no more transport sup- 
plies across an ocean than the high morale of infantrymen 
can, by itself, overcome the firepower of a machine gun. 
Nonetheless, in logistics as in other aspects of the art of war, 
moral limits are usually reached before absolute physical 

Many of the great feats of arms of military history were 
preceded by feats of logistics that required an extraordinary 
degree of courage and self-sacrifice. The 1775 siege of Bos- 
ton that did so much to convert a local rebellion into the 
American War of Independence would not have been possible 
without the incredible efforts involved in transporting the ar- 
tillery and supplies captured at Fort Ticonderoga during the 


MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

depths of a New England winter. Two centuries later, the 
Vietnamese operation of 1954 to capture the French fortress 
of Dien Bien Phu in what was then French Indochina de- 
pended on the transport of tons of supplies by porters carrying 
packs and pushing bicycles along hundreds of miles of 
jungle-covered mountain trails. 

Violence and Danger 

The means of war is force, applied in the form of organized 
violence. Since war is a violent enterprise, danger is a funda- 
mental characteristic of war. The actions that fall into the 
category of logistics are rarely, if ever, inherently violent. 
However, because what they do cannot be separated from war 
as a whole, those who practice logistics must often deal with 
both violence and danger. In some cases, this is the direct re- 
sult of enemy action. Attacks on logistics installations and 
lines of communications are commonplace in modem war- 
fare. In other cases, the danger faced by those involved in lo- 
gistics is derivative, resulting from risks taken to provide 
needed support under conditions of bad weather, fatigue, 
shortages, and the sense of urgency created during combat. 
The famous "Red Ball Express," the logistic operation de- 
signed to supply the Allied pursuit following the breakout 
from the Normandy beachhead, was largely free from signifi- 
cant enemy interference. Nonetheless, the urgency of the op- 
eration put enormous strain on the truck drivers, mechanics, 
military policemen, and supply specialists who tried to make 
the system work. Stress, the poor quality of roads, and the 


Logistics MCDP 4 

tendency to push vehicles to their mechanical limits resulted 
in a great number of accidents and many fatalities.'^ 

Because logistics is a function of war, the logistics system 
and the units and personnel that operate that system will be 
subjected to violence and danger. Commanders have an obli- 
gation to protect their logistic elements if these elements are 
to carry out their essential functions in support of operations. 
At the same time, logistic organizations must prepare for the 
stresses of combat. The characteristics that enable us to func- 
tion in the environment of violence and danger — ^physical fit- 
ness, excellence in basic military skills, technical proficiency, 
leadership, and unit cohesion — are as important to logistic 
units as they are to any other type of military organization. 


War is a complex enterprise subject to a multitude of factors. 
The interaction of these factors, the most important of which 
is the basic clash of opposing human wills, results in friction. 
In war, deliberate action of all sorts, to include logistic action, 
is made difficult by friction, "the force that resists all action." 
Activities that are a routine part of both civilian and military 
life in time of peace — ^the transportation of people and cargo, 
the distribution of goods, and the provision of services — be- 
come harder to carry out in war. Friction can take a number of 
forms. Physical friction can be caused by such things as 
weather, accidents, or the incompatibility of systems, equip- 
ment, or units that were not prepared to work together. 


MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

Psychological friction is the distress or disorientation that re- 
sults from fear or fatigue. Both physical and psychological 
friction are greatly increased by enemy action. 

Because it has so many causes and so takes many forms — 
indeed, because it is an inherent part of war — friction cannot 
be eliminated. It can only be reduced and overcome. A means 
of reducing friction is simplicity, the achievement of which 
requires continual efforts to eliminate needless complexity. 
We can overcome friction through the exercise of initiative, 
creativity, and will power throughout the force. Initiative 
greatly multiplies the number of minds and wills that take an 
active part in overcoming friction. Creativity increases the 
number of possible solutions to any given problem. Will 
power brings possible solutions far closer to their absolute 
physical limits than would otherwise be the case. 

Logistics is subject to friction to the same degree as other 
functions in war. Logistics deals in large quantities of mate- 
riel, vast distances, and short response times; logistics em- 
ploys formulas, calculations, and prediction to a greater 
extent than other functions. All of these actions are readily 
impacted upon and disrupted by unforeseen events, our own 
errors, or enemy action. It is important to note that logistics 
units, installations, facilities, and resources are not merely 
subject to attack but, in many cases, are the preferred targets 
of military action. We must cope with friction in logistics in 
the same manner as we do in other aspects of warfighting. 
Despite the complexity of tasks and functions in logistics, we 


Logistics MCDP 4 

must strive for simplicity both in the planning and execution 
of logistics. Designing flexibility into the logistics system 
provides the means for adaptation to the changes resulting 
from friction and for the exercise of initiative and creativity. 


All actions in war take place in an atmosphere of uncertainty. 
Uncertainty pervades battle in the form of unknowns about 
the enemy, about the environment, and even about the 
friendly situation. Because logistics deals chiefly with the 
physical aspect of war, we are tempted to believe that logis- 
tics is largely immune from the uncertainties of war. Logis- 
tics makes extensive use of precise calculation. Items are 
counted. Distances are measured. Formulas are used to pre- 
dict outcomes that range from the amount of fuel a unit needs 
to make a road march of a given distance to the number and 
type of ships needed to move a given force from one point to 
another. Nonetheless, the uncertainty that is part and parcel of 
war ensures that these calculations, however necessary, will 
rarely be more than approximations. At times, moreover, the 
fortunes of war are such that the results of many calculations 
will bear little resemblance to reality. 

We know how much a Marine needs to eat to maintain 
physical strength and morale, but we do not know whether a 
particular shipment of rations will be destroyed by enemy ac- 
tion or lost in an accident. We can use our knowledge to cal- 
culate the amount of food a force will need to sustain itself 


MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

for a given number of days, the capacity of various transpor- 
tation systems needed to move that food, and the human ef- 
fort needed to turn that food into palatable meals. We cannot, 
however, predict with any certainty the events, such as casu- 
alties or the surrender of large numbers of enemy troops, that 
can greatly change the numbers of people who must be fed. 

As with friction, uncertainty on the battlefield can only be 
reduced, not eliminated. The logistics system must be able to 
function effectively in an environment of uncertainty. It must 
not come to rely on standard formulas and calculations per- 
formed too far in advance of actual operations. The basic na- 
ture of logistics requires it to anticipate requirements based 
on assumptions and predictions in order to position resources 
where and when they may be required. Nevertheless, it is cru- 
cial that the logistics system also be able to adapt to changing 
circumstances, respond to new requirements, and rapidly im- 
plement alternative courses of action when initial assump- 
tions and calculations are found to be in error. 


For all that friction does to inhibit deliberate action, war itself 
is remarkably fluid. Each episode in war is the temporary re- 
sult of a unique combination of circumstances, presenting a 
unique set of problems which require an original solution. No 
episode can be viewed in isolation, nonetheless. Rather, each 
merges with those that precede and follow it, creating a con- 
tinuous, fluctuating flow of activity filled with unexpected 
events and fleeting opportunities. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Great advantages accrue to the military force whose logis- 
tics can adapt to changing circumstances and new situations. 
For this reason, logisticians must always be looking ahead, at- 
tempting to identify potential future actions and positioning 
logistics to support the next battle or even the battle after the 
next. To do this, they must have a thorough understanding of 
the commander 's intent as well as an awareness not just of 
their own situation but the situation at the operational and 
sometimes even strategic levels. 

The effect of fluidity and the ability of logistics to adapt 
can be seen in an example from the Korean war. In December 
of 1950, the entry of Chinese divisions into the war converted 
a highly successful pursuit by United Nations forces into a 
headlong retreat. A major factor in preventing this defeat 
from turning into a catastrophe was the rapidity with which 
the United Nations logistics system adapted to the new situa- 
tion and the simultaneous inability of Chinese logistics to do 
the same. More precisely, logisticians of the United Nations 
forces were able to quickly change the means by which any 
given part of the force was moved and resupplied. This en- 
sured that rear guards had sufficient ammunition, that vehi- 
cles had fuel, and that necessary improvements to routes of 
march — which included an entire bridge airdropped to the 1 st 
Marine Division — could be made. The Chinese, on the other 
hand, remained bound to their traditional, guerrilla-style, lo- 
gistics system, which assumed that combat units could draw 
food supplies from a compliant civilian population and that 
ammunition consumption would be very low. In a situation 


MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

where the civilian population was either nonexistent or ac- 
tively hostile and where units might be required to make sev- 
eral attacks in a week, this failure of the Chinese logistics 
system to adapt to new conditions translated directly into the 
failure of the Chinese forces in Korea to properly exploit sig- 
nificant tactical and operational opportunities.'^ 


In war, friction, uncertainty, and fluidity combine to create a 
great deal of disorder. Even under the most favorable cir- 
cumstances, plans will go awry, orders will be misunderstood, 
important messages will be lost, and units will be mixed. Dis- 
order presents particular problems for logistics, which neces- 
sarily depends on what may be called the "orderly virtues" — 
economy, accountability, standardization, and regularity. 

Because of the great benefits that derive from a well- 
ordered logistics system, logisticians have sometimes made 
the mistake of trying to combat disorder by stubbornly en- 
forcing procedures, even when the consequence of such en- 
forcement is disaster. A classic example of this is the 
response of the British quartermasters who, at the critical mo- 
ment of the battle of Ishandhlwana during the Anglo-Zulu 
War of 1879, insisted on issuing ammunition "by the book." 
Men who lacked the proper requisition forms, as well as men 
who requested ammunition from quartermasters serving units 
other than their own, were turned away. As a result, the final 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Zulu charge caught many British riflemen with empty car- 
tridge boxes and thus succeeded in overrunning the entire 
British position. 

Not so disastrous in the short run, but nonetheless danger- 
ous, is the belief that the disorder inherent in war is so irre- 
sistible that all considerations of economy, accountability, 
standardization, and regularity should be dispensed with. This 
belief, which was endemic to U.S. forces during the last years 
of World War II, resulted in such waste, confusion, and de- 
struction that the tempo of operations was considerably 
slowed. Failure to properly account for supplies resulted in 
avoidable shortages of such things as artillery ammunition. 
Widespread refusal to recycle gasoline containers exacerbated 
already severe gasoline shortages on the front lines with con- 
sequent reductions in the ability of frontline units to exploit 
opportunities. Even something as simple as the littering of 
roads with tin cans and other garbage led to a shortage of 
truck tires which greatly hampered the ability of many units 
to make long road marches. ^"^ 

To deal with disorder, the logistics system must strive for 
balance. On the one hand, it must estimate requirements and 
distribute resources based on plans and projections; otherwise 
the needed support will never be available where and when it 
is required. On the other, a system that blindly follows 
schedules and procedures rapidly loses touch with operational 


MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

realities and inhibits rather than enables effective action. Lo- 
gistics must balance the need for economy with the require- 
ment for redundancy and reserve capacity. It must balance the 
need to anticipate with the requirement to adapt and respond. 
Finally, above all, it must balance the need for efficiency with 
the need for effective support on a battlefield characterized by 
friction, uncertainty, fluidity, and disorder. 

Logistics and operations 

Effective logistics is absolutely necessary to the conduct of 
war but does not, in and of itself, guarantee victory. Rather, 
logistics makes an essential contribution to victory by gener- 
ating and sustaining the forces that conduct military opera- 
tions. In doing this, logistics enters into a tense and dynamic 
partnership with military operations, a relationship in which 
both logistics and operations exert a powerful influence on 
each other. 

A military operation is an inherently chaotic enterprise 
shaped by the interplay of two or more hostile wills. It is thus 
necessarily dynamic. The outcomes and byproducts of battles 
and engagements are unpredictable. Success or failure in bat- 
tle does not always bring one side or another closer to its 
original goal. The situation changes continuously and creates 


Logistics MCDP 4 

new possibilities for one or more belligerents to exploit. Be- 
cause of these dynamics, the results of military operations 
defy calculation. The result is tension between the desire to 
design and implement an infinite number of creative and 
adaptable operational schemes and the need to operate within 
the realistic boundaries imposed by logistical supportability. 

The relationship between logistics and military operations 
can therefore be stated as: logistics sets the outward limit on 
what is operationally possible. A useful analogy is that of a 
paddle ball, a toy consisting of a wooden paddle, a ball, and a 
piece of string. Logistics is like the string; it doesn't deter- 
mine where the ball will go but sets a limit on how far it can 
go before being pulled back. Logistics provides and sustains 
combat power. By determining how it provides and sustains 
combat power, logistics exerts a significant influence over the 
design and execution of military strategy, campaigns, and tac- 
tics. By determining for how long it can continue to provide 
and sustain combat power, logistics establishes constraints for 
the application of this combat power. 

The relationship between operations and logistics applies 
at all levels of war and across the range of military opera- 
tions. At the strategic level, the ability of a nation to employ 
forces to achieve national objectives, to concentrate them in a 
theater of operations, to keep them there, and to have them 
engage in operations is directly influenced by the logistics ca- 
pabilities of that nation. Russia in World War I and China 
during the Korean war had little difficulty raising large land 


MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 

armies. Concentrating them in a theater of operations and 
keeping them supplied once there proved far more difficult. 
As a result, the forces which could be employed were signifi- 
cantly limited; the actual combat power brought to bear was 
only a fraction of the country's whole capacity. 

A classic example of the limitations imposed by logistics 
at the operational level can be seen in the series of campaigns 
for control of Libya during World War II. Distances were so 
great, the transportation infrastructure so poor, and the diffi- 
culties of moving supplies into the theater so overwhelming 
that otherwise successful offensives were frequently halted 
for lack of supplies. On the other hand, an example of logis- 
tics opening an operational window also comes from the 
struggle for North Africa during World War II. In the summer 
of 1942, Axis forces unexpectedly captured the British for- 
tress of Tobruk. Tobruk was a major British logistics base, 
well-supplied with trucks, fuel, food, and ammunition. The 
capture of these supplies turned what had been a local offen- 
sive with limited objectives into a major threat to Allied con- 
trol of the Middle East' ^ 

Operations during the initial phase of Operation Restore 
Hope in Somalia in 1992-93 demonstrate that the limitations 
imposed by logistics apply to military operations other than 
war as well. Efforts to deliver aid to the most critically af- 
fected portions of the country were delayed by the lack of lo- 
gistics infrastructure required to receive and process supplies 
as well as to support the military forces who would ensure the 


Logistics MCDP 4 

safe delivery of those supplies. Marines could not bring the 
relief supplies inland until the necessary support facilities 
were established in and around the coastal city of Mogadishu. 

If logistics sets the limits, it follows that one of our key ob- 
jectives must he to ensure that limits imposed by logistics do 
not inhibit effective operations. We do this in several ways. 
First, we must ensure that plans and operations always take 
into account logistic realities. That is, operations must not ask 
for the impossible or intentionally overstep boundaries set 
forth by logistics. Second, logistic plans must be developed in 
concert with operational plans. This helps ensure that logistic 
plans can support operational designs to the greatest extent 
possible. Third, logisticians must constantly strive to expand 
the limits of the possible by employing initiative, creativity, 
and adaptability in the design and conduct of logistic activi- 
ties. Finally, it will often be necessary to take specific opera- 
tional actions to expand logistics capabilities. Whether that 
means seizing a critical support facility prior to moving 
against an operational objective, delaying an attack in order to 
build up the resources necessary to exploit the results, or re- 
ducing the size of a force to help reduce the volume of sup- 
port required, commanders must consider logistics in the 
development of plans and the allocation of resources. 


MCDP 4 The Nature of Logistics 


Logistics is an integral part of warfighting. Logistic action is 
an essential part of military action. Logistic relationships and 
organization are inseparable from the web of relationships 
and organizations that make modem war possible. Logistics 
provides the resources of combat power, positions those re- 
sources in the battlespace, and sustains them throughout the 
execution of operations. Because it is an integral part of war- 
fighting, logistics is subject to characteristics of war. Since 
war is fundamentally a human activity, it is the human dimen- 
sion that is paramount in logistics. Violence and danger, 
moral and physical forces, friction, uncertainty, fluidity, and 
disorder play roles in logistics that are similar to those that 
they play in other aspects of warfighting. Logistics is a key 
component of any and every operation of war. While it does 
not determine the shape that operations take, it sets limits that 
restrict the options available to commanders. Thus, the more 
flexible and far-reaching the logistics, the greater the possibil- 
ity for bold, decisive, and imaginative action. 


Chapter 2 

Logistics Theory 

"A real knowledge of supply and movement factors must be 
the basis of every leader 's plan; only then can he know how 
and when to take risks with those factors, and battles are won 
by taking risks. "^ 

— Napoleon 

". . . it [the description of logistics] precludes that view of lo- 
gistics which sees it only as a game for the G-4s and the 
mathematicians — a game to be settled with loading tables, 
slide rules and transportation schedules. 

Logistics becomes, in fact, the very core of generalship . . . to 
get military forces into a theater of war in superior strength 
and husband that strength until they shall prevail. "^ 

— S. L. A. Marshall 

MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

Having reached a common understanding of the nature 
of logistics, we turn to an examination of the theory of 
logistics. This examination will provide insight into key as- 
pects of this function that, in turn, will serve as the basis for 
creating effective logistics. 

The evolution of logistics 

Logistics is as old as organized warfare and, like war itself, 
has evolved considerably over time. Some changes, such as 
the introduction of new methods of transportation or new 
ways of obtaining supplies, have influenced logistics directly. 
Other changes have been indirect, the byproducts of the use 
of new techniques and weapons. Changes in warfare often 
cause momentous and unexpected changes in the conduct of 
the logistics function. An understanding of the evolution of 
logistics provides key insights into the changes and chal- 
lenges facing logistics in the future. 

It is possible to distinguish several general periods within 
the evolution of logistics.^ Premodem armies had relatively 
simple logistics needs. Warriors brought their own weapons 
to the field and provided their own means of mobility, their 
own feet or a horse. The primary logistics concern was feed- 
ing the army; this was generally done through foraging or lo- 
cal procurement. With the emergence of modem armies in the 


Logistics MCDP 4 

1 7th and 1 8th centuries came the initial development of dedi- 
cated logistics systems and services. The introduction of can- 
non and firearms created new requirements for supply and 
transportation services. The makeup of these armies and the 
nature of warfare during this period generally discouraged the 
use of foraging or pillage as a means of supplying the army. 
As a result, forces had to be largely self-sufficient. This led to 
the creation of a logistics system consisting of fixed supply 
points called magazines and large, unwieldy baggage trains. 
The logistics system required to sustain an army at once be- 
came both a key limiting factor and a major vulnerability. 
The need to establish magazines in advance of any campaign 
restricted strategic mobility, while the requirement to trans- 
port large quantities of provisions and other supplies inhibited 
tactical mobility. In recognition of the importance of the lo- 
gistics system to these armies, attacks on magazines, baggage 
trains, and lines of communications became significant ac- 
tions of war for the first time."^ 

The industrial revolution radically changed warfare and lo- 
gistics. One of the major changes was the impact upon the 
scale of warfare. Weapons, ammunition, machinery, uni- 
forms, equipment, and even foodstuffs could be produced at a 
greater scale than ever before. In addition, mechanization of 
production significantly reduced the labor requirement, free- 
ing up manpower for service in mass conscript armies. A sec- 
ond major change brought on by the industrial revolution was 
the increase in lethality afforded by the application of new 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

technologies in weaponry coupled with the ability to mass- 
produce both weapons and ammunition. Finally, develop- 
ments in transportation such as the railroad and steamship and 
later the airplane and automobile significantly enhanced the 
strategic, operational, and tactical mobility of armies and 
their support systems. As a result of these innovations, mili- 
tary forces grew larger in size, could deliver unprecedented 
firepower, and were increasingly capable of rapid movement. 

The industrial revolution transformed logistics from an im- 
portant aspect of warfare to an essential prerequisite for the 
conduct of war. Mass armies consumed vast quantities of 
food, ammunition, and other supplies. Modem weapons and 
equipment created the need for new services such as mainte- 
nance and salvage as well as for new commodities like fuel 
and spare parts. The management of rail and shipping net- 
works became crucial to delivering forces to the battlefield 
and sustaining those forces once they arrived. Logistics con- 
siderations came to dominate the strategic and operational 
levels of war. The ability of a nation to translate industrial ca- 
pability into military resources and its capacity to sustain the 
military effort became crucial factors in determining whether 
to go to war. Decisions on where and when to initiate cam- 
paigns were in large part resource decisions. Major operations 
could not be conducted until the necessary buildup of troops 
and supplies had been effected by the logistics system. 

The influence of these changes is clearly seen during 
World War II. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was pre- 
cipitated by the perceived threat to Japan's access to strategic 


Logistics MCDP 4 

resources. The Allied grand strategy of "Europe First" was 
based in large part on the initial inability of the logistics sys- 
tem to support simultaneous offensives in both theaters. Ma- 
jor operations such as the invasions of Normandy and the 
Philippines were preceded by months of logistic stockpiling. 

The next major step in the evolution of logistics is only 
now beginning to emerge. The information age will have sig- 
nificant effects on all aspects of warfare, and logistics is no 
exception. Many of these effects will have a positive influ- 
ence on logistics. The development of more capable weapons 
and equipment will likely result in a decrease in the size of 
units and a reduction in the quantity of equipment. This result 
should reduce the volume of logistic support needed. Modem 
electronics and information systems are making possible ma- 
jor advances in both equipment design and maintenance man- 
agement. Sustainability is now considered a critical factor in 
the development and procurement of new weapons and sys- 
tems; acquisition of efficient and maintainable equipment will 
also reduce the logistic burden. Improvements in information 
processing and communications are already permitting better 
management of resources than ever before. Better manage- 
ment in turn leads to greater responsiveness and efficiency in 
the provision of logistic support. The evolution of open infor- 
mation networks and architectures will allow the exchange of 
data and processes with the commercial sector, enabling us to 
draw upon resources and capabilities outside the military lo- 
gistics system. 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

At the same time, the information age will also present sig- 
nificant new challenges for logistics. While the prevailing 
characteristics of the information age are variety and rapid 
change, we believe that the basic nature of warfare will re- 
main much the same as it has always been: a violent collision 
of opposing wills driven by complexity, friction, and chance. 
However, the battlespace of tomorrow could be significantly 
different than the one we fight in today. 

One of the emerging trends is the expanding battlespace. 
Improvements in mobility are permitting forces to move more 
quickly over longer distances than ever before. At the same 
time, the increasing lethality and reach of weapons enables 
the engagement of targets at greater ranges than ever before, 
compelling military units to disperse even farther in order to 
survive. This dispersal, in turn, creates a nonlinear array of 
forces with considerable separation between units and an in- 
termixing of friendly and enemy forces to a greater extent 
than ever before. The battlespace of the future could also be- 
come relatively empty with much smaller forces possessing 
an increased destructive potential spread over greater inter- 
vals. Greater distances between combat forces and their sup- 
porting elements, as well as between the belligerents, will 
require our logisticians to extend their reach. Knowing how, 
where, and to what extent forces will be employed throughout 
the battlespace, anticipating and planning for their sustain- 
ment needs, and providing the mobility necessary to deliver 
the required support will be a considerable challenge in the 
extended battlespace of the future. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

A second emerging trend is the continuing compression of 
reaction times during operations. Advanced weapons and in- 
formation systems provide the capacity to locate the enemy, 
concentrate forces, and engage targets more rapidly than ever 
before. The notion of generating ever- increasing speed over 
time, or tempo, takes on greater relevance as we attempt to 
accelerate our information processing and decisionmaking to 
outpace that of our adversary's. In the battlespace of the fu- 
ture, operations will be spatially dispersed, but observation, 
decisionmaking, and reaction intervals will become shorter 
and shorter. Lack of time presents a particular challenge to lo- 
gistics, since logistics relies in large measure upon anticipa- 
tion and planning to overcome the physical constraints posed 
by the mass of its commodities and the distances over which 
they must be delivered. The resourcefulness and ingenuity of 
logisticians will be tested by the need to provide ever-more- 
responsive support to keep pace with faster operating tempos. 

Another trend in future operations has been emerging for 
some time: the requirement for our forces to carry out a wide 
variety of missions, many of which lie outside the traditional 
definitions of war or combat. Forces that are primarily config- 
ured for operations in war are increasingly being required to 
conduct military operations other than war with little or no 
advance notice. Circumstances may require simultaneous ex- 
ecution of both types of operations or a transition from one 
type to the other as the nature of the military action changes. 
While the basic principles by which we conduct combat and 
military operations other than war are similar, the subtleties 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

in application may be extensive. In efforts such as humanitar- 
ian assistance and disaster relief, logistics functions assume a 
preeminent role. These efforts are normally conducted as 
joint, multinational, and, increasingly, interagency operations. 
Interoperability of our logistics capabilities with those of joint 
forces and agencies will be critical. New and unique logistics 
capabilities will be required, as commanders must consider 
not only how to support their own forces but also those of 
other Services, allies, participating nongovernmental organi- 
zations, and civilian populations. Since we cannot predict the 
time, location, or characteristics of the next contingency op- 
eration, our logistics system must be sufficiently flexible and 
adaptable to function across the range of military operations, 
in major wars as well as military operations other than war. 

A fourth trend is the expanding use of advanced technol- 
ogy by military forces. In many cases, the adoption of new 
technology results in the substitution of quality for quantity. 
The implication for logistics is that while the overall size of 
the inventory goes down, the value and relative importance of 
each individual asset goes up. The need for maintaining indi- 
vidual aircraft is more critical when there are 12 per squadron 
instead of 20. The need for effective management of assets is 
more apparent when there are a dozen precision-guided muni- 
tions available instead of 100 dumb bombs. The complexity 
of the tasks involved in supporting a high technology force 
also increases as the sophistication of its weapons and equip- 
ment increases. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

A final trend is the ever-increasing integration of military 
logistics with the commercial world. Many logistics concepts 
perfected in the private sector are currently being adopted by 
the military and, in certain cases, major elements of our logis- 
tics capacity are under consideration for outsourcing. While 
efficiencies may be gained through this integration, we must 
also exercise some caution. We cannot forget the unique re- 
quirements imposed upon military logistics by the need to 
support combat operations. Consider our reliance on commer- 
cial transportation for strategic mobility. Is our own commer- 
cial air, overland, and sealift infrastructure able to respond to 
singularly military needs? Will an increasingly international 
shipping industry, where the majority of ships are no longer 
owned by American companies, be amenable to mobilization 
under tense political circumstances? What effect might this 
dependence have on our ability to move and sustain our 
forces? Logistics will have to consider these difficult ques- 
tions and provide practical solutions to ensure commanders 
receive the support necessary to conduct and sustain opera- 

The evolution of logistics provides us with the perspective 
from which to examine the remaining aspects of logistics the- 
ory. It shows the importance of logistics to warfare through- 
out history and demonstrates that the role and impact of 
logistics have increased over time. An understanding of the 
evolution of logistics also gives us some insight into the chal- 
lenges facing logistics in the future. 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

The logistics process 

Using the evolution of logistics as a foundation, our study of 
logistics proceeds with a generic description of the logistics 
process. If logistics is the bridge which connects the resource 
capability of a nation's economy to its fighting forces, then 
the elements of the logistics process are the means by which 
the transition is made. The elements of the process describe 
how resources are used to equip, transport, and maintain our 
forces. The logistics process at any level consists of four 
steps: acquisition, distribution, sustainment, and disposition. 
(See figure 2, page 46.) 

Acquisition is the procurement of weapons, equipment, fa- 
cilities, ordnance, and commodities such as food, clothing, 
fuel, and repair parts. Though usually a strategic responsibil- 
ity, acquisition can be accomplished at the operational and 
tactical levels through purchasing or securing locally avail- 
able material and supplies. 

Distribution is the means by which logistic support — mate- 
riel, support services, and personnel — get to the operational 
commander. The means employed is predicated upon what is 
being moved, its place of origin, lift assets available, and ur- 
gency assigned. Distribution is a diverse process, incorporat- 
ing not only transportation means but encompassing an entire 
distribution system composed of bases and procedures, such 
as inventory control methods. 






Figure 2. Logistics process. 

Sustainment is the provision of resources necessary to sup- 
port operations until the mission is completed. Sustainment 
facilitates uninterrupted operations through means of ade- 
quate logistic support. It is accomplished through supply sys- 
tems, maintenance, and other services which ensure continu- 
ing support through the duration of an operation. 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

Disposition is the consumption and/or return and disposal 
of weapons, equipment, and supplies. The logistics process is 
complete when supplies and services are used by the sup- 
ported unit or they are returned to the supporting unit for re- 
distribution, repair, salvage, or disposal. Disposition makes a 
significant contribution to our ability to sustain forces over 
the long term and is an essential part of our fiscal and envi- 
ronmental responsibilities. 

The logistics process provides the framework for the con- 
duct of all logistic activities. It shapes the design of our logis- 
tics system as a whole and underpins the logistic plans 
generated to support specific operations. Commanders must 
plan for and supervise the process of acquisition, distribution, 
sustainment, and disposition to ensure that logistics supports, 
not inhibits, their operational designs. 

Functional areas of logistics 

Because logistics encompasses a wide range of support activi- 
ties, logistic elements are normally broken down into group- 
ings of six related activities known as functional areas. These 
six functional areas are supply, maintenance, transportation, 
general engineering, health services, and other services 
which include legal, exchange, food, disbursing, postal, billet- 
ing, religious, mortuary, and morale and recreation services. 
Logistics systems and plans are usually developed for each 


Logistics MCDP 4 

functional area, and logisticians commonly discuss support 
concepts in terms of these "commodity areas." However, 
while each logistics function is essential in and of itself, all 
functions must be integrated into the overall logistics system 
to ensure full support of the operating forces. Developing 
maintenance plans without regard to their impact on supply 
and transportation is foolhardy. Health services support plan- 
ning is impossible without considering supply, transportation, 
maintenance, and general engineering services. 

Levels of logistics 

Logistics encompasses a wide variety of activities that serve 
the needs of organizations as small as a fire team and as large 
as a coalition of nations at war. While the logistics process 
and functions cut across the levels of war, the nature of logis- 
tic activities conducted at the strategic level are very different 
from those carried out at the tactical level. For this reason, it 
is important to consider levels of logistics, just as we discuss 
levels of war. 

Levels of logistics correspond directly to the strategic, op- 
erational, and tactical levels of war. At first glance, the differ- 
ences between the levels of logistics appear to be largely a 
matter of scale. Logistics at the strategic level of war (strate- 
gic logistics) involves greater distances and greater amounts 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

of materiel than logistics at the operational level of war (op- 
erational logistics). Operational logistics, in turn, involves 
greater distances and amounts of materiel than tactical logis- 
tics. However, it is crucial to understand that the focus of lo- 
gistic activities is significantly different at each of the levels 
of logistics. Effective support of military evolutions depends 
upon the successful conduct and integration of logistic activi- 
ties at all three levels. 

Strategic logistics encompasses the nation's ability to 
raise, deploy, and sustain operating forces in the execution of 
the national military strategy. It is at this level that weapons 
and equipment are designed and purchased, recruiting pro- 
grams are initiated, and permanent bases are developed and 
maintained. Strategic logistics involves the management of 
air and sealift for strategic mobility and the sustainment of 
forces in distant theaters of operations. When long-term mili- 
tary operations are undertaken, strategic logistics requires ex- 
tensive interaction with the nation's industrial base to ensure 
timely support of the military effort. 

Strategic logistics should not be viewed as a function ac- 
complished by someone else, somewhere else, with little or 
no impact on tactical logistics or the conduct of operations. 
Logistic investment made at this level determines the type 
and extent of support to the operational forces not only in 
numbers of personnel and quantity of food and ammunition 
available but also the quality, effectiveness, and supportabil- 
ity of the weapons and equipment we have to use. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Operational logistics addresses sustainment within a mili- 
tary theater of operations. It connects the logistic efforts of 
the strategic level with those of the tactical level. Taking re- 
sources provided from the strategic level, it makes them 
available in sufficient quantities to the tactical commander to 
support the concept of operations. Operational logistics in- 
volves those support activities required to sustain campaigns 
and major operations. It normally encompasses three tasks: 
providing resources to the tactical commanders, procuring re- 
sources not provided by strategic logistics, and managing the 
resources necessary to sustain the campaign in accordance 
with the intent of the operational- level commander. 

Providing resources to the tactical commander is accom- 
plished through the development of intermediate and forward 
support bases, the maintenance and employment of an effec- 
tive transportation system, and support of the arrival and as- 
sembly of personnel and equipment as they reach the area of 
operations. Operational- level procurement involves coordina- 
tion with joint support agencies, contracting for host-nation 
support, or even the capture and salvage of resources from the 
enemy. Finally, managing resources entails both the appor- 
tioning of resources among tactical forces based on the cam- 
paign plan and the rationing of resources over time to ensure 
sustainment throughout the duration of the campaign. Suc- 
cessful management of logistics at the operational level re- 
quires a thorough understanding of the commander's intent, 
the development of detailed and flexible logistic plans, and 
the maintenance of an effective command and control system. 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

Tactical logistics is concerned with sustaining forces in 
combat. It deals with the feeding, fueling, arming, and main- 
tenance of troops and equipment. Tactical logistics involves 
the actual performance of the logistics functions of supply, 
maintenance, transportation, health services, general engi- 
neering, and other services with resources immediately or im- 
minently available. Tactical logistics draws upon resources 
made available at the operational level and focuses on the 
provision of support within the force. 

While the focus of this publication is largely on the tactical 
level of war, it is important to restate that successful tactical 
logistics is dependent upon a strategic and operational logis- 
tics foundation. Strategic logistics forms the foundation from 
which operational logistics enables and sustains tactical lo- 
gistics. A logistics system must be able to transform re- 
sources provided at the strategic level into measurable and 
sustainable combat power at the tactical level. For this reason, 
it is crucial that the Marine Corps logistics system be capable 
of functioning at all three levels of logistics. (See figure 3, 
page 52.) 

The logistics system 

In order to perform the logistics function, a military organiza- 
tion must have a logistics system. A logistics system consists 
of personnel, organizations, equipment, facilities, training and 




^ / Supply 
S^ /Maintenance'^ 
'^ /Transportation 
Health Services 
'Engineering & Services'^ 



Force Closure 
Arrival & Assembly 

Intratheater Lift 

Theater Distribution 


Reconstitution & Redeployment 



Procurement Mobilization 

War Reserves Facilities 

Material Readiness Strategic Airlift & Seallft 

Deployment & Support Force Regeneration 

Figure 3. Levels of logistics. 

education, and procedures which are integrated so as to sup- 
port the operating forces. A logistics system is tailored in 
size, structure, and procedures to support the mission, compo- 
sition, and warfighting doctrine of its military force. Before 
discussing the particular makeup and characteristics of the 
Marine Corps logistics system, it is important to develop an 
understanding of logistics systems in general. All logistics 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

systems have two fundamental elements: a distribution sys- 
tem, made up of bases and distribution procedures, and com- 
mand and control. 

Distribution Systems 

Distribution systems are made up of bases and procedures 
that are designed to process resources from the time they en- 
ter the military system at the strategic level until they are is- 
sued at the tactical level. In order to accomplish its objective, 
the logistics system must have a place from which to provide 
resources — a base — and a method — distribution proce- 
dures — for moving the required resources from the base to 
the tactical forces which need them. (See figure 4, page 54.) 

Bases, Bases are an integral part of the distribution process. 
They form the foundation of the entire logistics system, pro- 
viding the fixed points from which resources are acquired, 
maintained, and distributed. Bases perform several functions 
besides the obvious purpose of accumulating supplies for 
later use. Bases are a location for the provision of services, 
maintenance of equipment, and organization and redistribu- 
tion of assets, and they often act as the transition point from 
one form of transport to another (such as from intertheater air 
or sealift to local rail or road transportation systems). 
Whether providing simple or diverse services, bases are the 
most tangible component of a distribution system. Their con- 
figuration may be as simple as the cache or as intricate as 
seabasing. Options available for bases include permanent 




bases, forward bases, seabasing, and prepositioning. (See fig- 
ure 5.) The choice of a particular type of basing depends pri- 
marily on the nature of the force and the area of operations. 
The expeditionary nature of the Marine Corps normally re- 
quires the employment of a combination of basing options to 
support a particular operation. 

Permanent Bases. Permanent bases provide sustained support 
for large elements of the force. They are normally established 
within the boundaries of the nation or a close ally where they 
can be fully developed and protected. Military organizations 
whose primary responsibility is defense of their homeland 


Figure 4. Distribution systems. 



Logistics Theory 

normally rely primarily on permanent bases to provide virtu- 
ally all logistic support. In contrast, U.S. forces maintain per- 
manent bases within the continental United States and on the 
soil of U.S. allies to provide strategic- and operational-level 
logistic support; these bases also are the core for the develop- 
ment of a forward-deployed operational- and tactical-level lo- 
gistic support network. 

Forward Bases. The classic technique for overcoming the lim- 
its that logistics places on operations is the establishment of 

Forward Basing 

Permanent Basing 


Figure 5. Logistics basing options. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

forward bases. Forward bases are facilities established within 
the area of operations to provide operational- or tactical- level 
logistic support. Forward bases serve a number of purposes, 
the most important of which is to increase the responsiveness 
of the logistics system by moving the source of support as 
close as possible to the operating forces. Modem equipment 
and techniques make it possible for forward bases to provide 
almost every function of logistics, ranging from the perform- 
ance of complex medical procedures through the overhaul of 
sophisticated weapons systems. Historically, almost all mili- 
tary forces have employed some type of forward base. 

In determining where and when to establish a forward 
base, there is an inherent tension between the need for secu- 
rity and the desire to provide responsive support. Although 
absolute security is rarely achieved in war, forward bases 
should be reasonably secure from enemy action. In wars with 
well-established front lines, bases are usually located behind 
the zone where actual combat is taking place. In campaigns 
characterized by rapid movement, however, bases are some- 
times established at times and places where their chief protec- 
tion is the tempo of operations. Such was the case with 
Forward Operating Base Cobra established inside Iraq by the 
U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division to support initial air as- 
sault operations during Operation Desert Storm. ^ The better 
protected a base is, the greater the odds that the people work- 
ing there can focus their energies on the logistic effort. 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

However, the advantages gained by providing a highly secure 
environment must be weighed against the considerable bene- 
fits that come from locating bases as close as possible to the 
actual fighting. These benefits include the efficiency of trans- 
port and the speed with which the logistics system responds 
to the needs of the front. 

A classic use of forward basing was illustrated by Grant's 
1864 campaign against Richmond. In order to increase the 
mobility of his marching columns, Grant reduced the rations 
carried by his soldiers from eight days to three. Each corps 
was stripped to march with only about one-half its usual sup- 
plies. Supplies were restocked from advance depots which 
had been staged along established rail and water routes. The 
result was a series of forward bases, positioned far enough 
ahead along Grant's route of march to support his movement 
south to Richmond.^ 

Seabasing. Ships and boats have been used as forward bases in 
riverine operations, amphibious operations, and operations in 
the littoral areas. Seabased logistics is the managed provision 
of sustainment to units ashore from ships offshore. The ad- 
vantages of this approach can be considerable. During the in- 
vasion of Okinawa in 1945, a 6,000-mile maritime supply line 
was used to support an invasion force of over 400 amphibious 
ships and almost 200,000 troops.^ In the disaster relief effort 
conducted by the 5th Marine Expeditionary Brigade after a 


Logistics MCDP 4 

typhoon devastated Bangladesh in 1991, Navy and Marine 
units provided significant assistance to the host nation with- 
out the need to establish a presence ashore or draw resources 
from the already overburdened local infrastructure.^ Ships can 
serve both as a means of moving supplies into a theater of op- 
erations and as mobile warehouses for resupply within that 
theater. Certain kinds of ships can provide useful facilities, to 
include small hospitals, maintenance capabilities, freshwater 
condensers, living quarters, and galleys. Seabasing reduces 
the need to establish logistics facilities ashore, thereby reduc- 
ing the footprint and vulnerability of the land-based portion 
of the force. 

Seabasing is not without its drawbacks. The chief prerequi- 
site to the use of ships as forward bases is friendly control of 
the surrounding water. If a forward base on land is properly 
laid out, it takes considerable enemy action to destroy it. A 
ship at sea, on the other hand, can be sunk by a single tor- 
pedo, antiship missile, or mine. The most recent example of 
this took place in the Falklands war of 1982, where a British 
ship serving both as an improvised aircraft carrier and as a 
depot for aviation supplies was sunk by a single Exocet 
missile.^ The movement of support between the seabase and 
shore is critical and must receive proper priority in the alloca- 
tion of transportation assets. If ship-to- shore transportation 
assets are limited, the need to move combat forces may con- 
flict with the need to move logistics resources ashore. 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

In the past, seabasing was appropriate only under limited 
circumstances. While it provided for greater economy, it of- 
ten resulted in a loss of responsiveness due to time/distance 
factors, difficulties in communications, and the effects of 
w^eather on ship-to-shore movement. Generally it provided lit- 
tle more logistics capability than supply, hospital assets, and 
limited maintenance facilities. Today, however, advances in 
amphibious shipping, aircraft, landing craft, and communica- 
tions and information systems are rapidly improving the abil- 
ity to perform seabased logistics. A seabased logistics system 
which employs these capabilities will often be able to provide 
logistic support with equal or greater flexibility and respon- 
siveness than could be provided from forward land bases. 
This enhanced capability, coupled with the increasing re- 
quirement to reduce the dependence of our forces on all types 
of land bases, will result in greater emphasis on seabasing in 
the future. 

Prepositioning. Prepositioning is a variation of forward basing. 
Prepositioning is the staging of equipment and supplies in a 
forward location for use by a force at some future time. One 
of the oldest and simplest forms of prepositioning is the 
cache, the technique of concealing a small quantity of sup- 
plies in a hidden location for later use. Today, military forces 
use prepositioning as a means of decreasing the time it takes 
to respond to a crisis by reducing the need to transport large 
quantities of supplies and equipment to the area of operations. 
Large countries preposition equipment near their borders for 
use by units or reserves stationed in the interior. Nations with 


Logistics MCDP 4 

commitments to an alliance may preposition stocks on the ter- 
ritory of their allies both as a sign of commitment as well as a 
means to increase responsiveness. 

U.S. military forces in general and the Marine Corps in 
particular make extensive use of prepositioning. Forward- 
positioned equipment and supplies are intended to bridge the 
gap between the time a force's initial supplies run out and the 
time that strategic resources begin to flow into the theater of 
operations. Prepositioned stocks may be stored ashore at per- 
manent bases on the territory of allies or aboard military or 
commercial shipping. Included in these prepositioning pro- 
grams are weapons and equipment to outfit combat forma- 
tions, supplies, repair parts, and the transportation, medical, 
and maintenance equipment needed to provide basic sustain- 
ment to a deployed force. 

The flexibility and responsiveness which prepositioning 
offers are illustrated by the employment of maritime preposi- 
tioning ships in support of recent operations. During the ini- 
tial days of Operation Desert Shield, a Marine air-ground task 
force (MAGTF) of over 15,000 Marines was deployed a dis- 
tance of 12,000 miles to link up with prepositioned equipment 
and supplies on board the ships of Maritime Prepositioning 
Squadron Two. Within 1 1 days, the 7th Marine Expeditionary 
Brigade was fully combat-capable, providing the first heavy 
forces for the defense of Saudi Arabia. The resources of the 
prepositioning ships were used to sustain the MAGTF as well 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

as the forces of other Services and allies while full logistics 
capabilities were being established in theater. Maritime 
prepositioning ships have also demonstrated their utility in 
supporting military operations other than war, providing sup- 
port to humanitarian assistance operations in Somalia and dis- 
aster relief efforts in the Philippines. 

We must consider a number of factors to determine which 
basing options to employ within a logistics system. The most 
important of these factors is the basic mission of the military 
force. A continental power will use a different type of basing 
scheme than a maritime power. A force primarily organized 
for territorial defense will place much less emphasis on for- 
ward basing or seabasing than military forces structured for 
expeditionary operations. 

The second major factor is security. Bases must be pro- 
tected. Protection is normally afforded by locating bases at 
safe distances from direct combat or by allocating sufficient 
forces for base defense. Permanent bases located deep in the 
rear area are generally more secure than forward bases, but 
the responsiveness of the support provided is also often 
greatly reduced. Employing forward bases in close proximity 
to the front increases responsiveness, but significant forces 
may be needed to defend these bases; forces used in base de- 
fense cannot be used for other operations. Seabasing offers 
increased security in many situations but at a potential cost of 
some degree of responsiveness. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

The final factor is tempo. As a general rule, it takes far 
longer to amass supplies or establish maintenance resources 
at a base than it does to expend or use them. An extreme ex- 
ample is provided by the Gulf War. In that conflict, coalition 
forces spent 6 months accumulating supplies at forward bases 
but exhausted many items of supply in less than 1 00 hours of 
combat. Because it is far easier to expend supplies and serv- 
ices than to accrue them, the maintenance of a high opera- 
tional tempo will often depend on the speed with which 
forward bases can be established. This requires the invest- 
ment of resources: having adequate goods and services, suffi- 
cient means to transport them to the forward base, and skilled 
logisticians who can effectively manage those assets. The 
choice of a basing scheme can influence tempo. For example, 
prepositioning can generate tempo by reducing the demand 
on strategic transportation assets. At the same time, preposi- 
tioning can inhibit tempo if the equipment and supplies are 
not prepositioned at the right locations. 

As a forward-deployed, expeditionary force-in-readiness, 
the Marine Corps employs a combination of basing methods. 
We use permanent bases to carry out strategic logistics func- 
tions and to support the development of forward-deployed op- 
erational- and tactical- level logistics capabilities. As a naval 
force, the Marine Corps has always made extensive use of 
seabasing. The Navy-Marine Corps team has pioneered inno- 
vation in the conduct of logistics functions afloat. Examples 
include modem hospital ships, the aviation logistic support 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

ship, and the offshore petroleum distribution system. Seabas- 
ing will become even more critical in the future since the 
characteristics of future operating environments will require 
greater security for forces ashore and less reliance on devel- 
oped infrastructure within the area of operations. At the same 
time, seabasing will become more attractive as emerging 
technologies increase our capabilities to do seabased logistics. 
Prepositioning has become an essential part of our logistics 
concept, allowing us to increase responsiveness and generate 
tempo at the strategic and operational levels. Finally, the 
Marine Corps uses forward basing once forces are established 
ashore. Some of these expeditionary bases are collocated with 
a beach, port, or airfield where they provide the necessary 
links to seabased resources. Others are positioned close to the 
front in order to provide responsive support to the operating 

Procedures. To provide logistics resources to the forces from 
the bases just described, the other major component of a dis- 
tribution system is a set of procedures. Reduced to its sim- 
plest form, there are two types of procedures that can be 
employed to effect distribution. The first places almost total 
responsibility on the unit needing support. When a unit re- 
quires support of some type, it generates a request. The logis- 
tics system provides resources from the bases in response to 
the request. This type of procedure is known as "demand- 
pull" or simply "pull." At the other extreme, it is possible to 
design a system that provides resources without any action on 
the part of the unit receiving support. Resources are delivered 


Logistics MCDP 4 

to the base and automatically allocated among the units sup- 
ported by that base according to planned schedules and for- 
mulas. This method is referred to as "supply-push" or simply 

The push concept uses calculations of anticipated logistics 
requirements to position or deliver resources where and when 
they are likely to be needed. While normally associated with 
supply, the push concept can be applied to most logistics 
functions. Medical facilities can be prepositioned based on 
projected casualty rates in certain sectors. Maintenance teams 
can be moved forward in anticipation of future requirements. 
Push logistics develops detailed plans for the provision of 
support and provides resources on some type of schedule. The 
push concept relieves the tactical commander of much of the 
burden to project logistics requirements and request the sup- 
port; it provides regular and generally dependable support. On 
the other hand, because push logistics relies on anticipation 
and planning, the tactical commander may be overburdened 
by excess quantities of certain items while going short in oth- 
ers. The push concept requires accurate estimates for the 
tempo of operations and corresponding consumption rates. 
Underestimating results in shortages while overestimating re- 
sults in unnecessary resources spread throughout the area of 
operations. In addition, pure push systems usually lack the 
flexibility to respond to the dynamic needs of combat. 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

In the pull method, the operating unit directly controls the 
orders for resupply as well as calls for engineering, mainte- 
nance, and other support services. The supported unit takes on 
greater responsibility for anticipating and defining require- 
ments as well as ensuring that those requirements are submit- 
ted in time to arrive where and when required. The advantage 
is that the tactical commander receives only the support that 
is actually needed. This permits forces to enhance their mo- 
bility by carrying the minimum quantities of supplies or sup- 
port assets. The benefit to the logistics system is greater 
efficiency through the reduction in the overall quantity of re- 
sources required. While pull systems may be more efficient, 
their effectiveness depends on the logistics system's ability to 
successfully react to the extensive requirements that may be 
placed upon it. The success of the pull technique has greatly 
improved with enhanced communications and information 
management, as well as a more responsive distribution net- 
work. However, there will always be limits to the ability of 
any system to react to the uncertainties of war. 

In war, consumption rates can be unpredictable, communi- 
cations between the operating forces and the support infra- 
structure may be limited or unavailable, and delivery times 
may be uncertain. The dilemma for the commander is 
whether to rely on "push" support based on anticipated needs 
or on "pull" support as determined by user demand. Marine 




logistics traditionally employs a combination of both meth- 
ods. (See figure 6.) Initial sustainment is provided by the push 
method; strategic and operational agencies push most of the 
projected logistic support into the area of operations based on 
the anticipated level of operations. Tactical units receive rou- 
tine support, such as resupply of food, water, and ammuni- 
tion, on a standard schedule based on their consumption rates 
and employment. At the same time, units pull specific kinds 




Resources scheduled 

Logistics anticipates 

Less efficient 

Based on estimate 
of consumption due 
to operational tempo 


Resources requested 

Unit anticipates 

More efficient 

Based on actual 
consumption rate 

Figure 6. Push versus pull distribution. 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

of logistic support, such as maintenance, engineering, and 
medical services, from task-organized combat service support 
units or detachments on an as-required basis. 

A related aspect of distribution procedures is the method 
used to actually deliver the resources to the supported unit. 
There are two principal distribution methods. In supply point 
distribution, resources are staged at a base or other point and 
the supported unit comes to that base or point to obtain its 
supplies or services. The using unit is responsible for trans- 
portation to and from the supply point. The other method is 
unit distribution. In this method, the logistics system delivers 
supplies and services directly to the supported unit. The sup- 
porting logistics unit provides transportation to the supported 

Supply point distribution is more efficient for the logistics 
system but places a greater burden on the supported units. 
Unit distribution is generally more responsive to the needs of 
the operating forces but requires the dedication of significant 
transportation assets. While certain situations might require 
the use of one method over the other, the two distribution 
methods are normally used together to effect the delivery of 

Command and Control 

The second component of the logistics system is command 
and control. The best distribution system in the world is use- 
less without an effective means for using that system to take 


Logistics MCDP 4 

the necessary actions. Command and control is fundamental 
to all military activities. '° Command and control is the means 
by which a commander recognizes what needs to be done and 
sees to it that appropriate actions are taken. In logistics, com- 
mand and control helps the commander to recognize what 
support is needed and to see to it that the support reaches the 
units who need it. 

Command and control of logistics capabilities links the 
distribution system to the planning and execution of opera- 
tions. A critical task of logistics is to facilitate the effective 
use of limited resources to support operations. Command and 
control is the means to ensure this effective employment of 
resources. Logistics command and control aids the com- 
mander in accomplishing three essential tasks: anticipating 
future requirements, allocating resources, and dealing with 

Planning is the component of command and control that 
provides the primary means of anticipating future require- 
ments. Planning is crucial to all military activities, but it is es- 
sential to the effective conduct of logistics, given the quantity 
and variety of resources to be provided, the diverse nature of 
the logistics requirements to be satisfied, and the impact of 
time-distance factors on the provision of timely support. Lo- 
gistics must stay one battle ahead of operations in order to 
support the commander's intent and help shape the battle or 
campaign. Effective logistic planning identifies future re- 
quirements and designs solutions to satisfy those require- 
ments. Logistic planning ensures that the necessary resources 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

can reach the area of operations through force deployment 
planning and that all operations can be adequately supported 
through sustainment planning. 

Logistic planning benefits from the scientific nature of lo- 
gistics. Since logistics deals in quantifiable resources and tan- 
gible factors, analytical methods, formulas, and calculations 
can help to develop logistic plans. In this respect, logistics has 
taken advantage of the increasing availability of modern com- 
munications and information systems. Information technol- 
ogy has enhanced the collection of usage data, the tracking of 
assets, and the processing of requirements, providing more 
detailed and accurate information upon which to base plans. 
At the same time, we recognize that there are limits to what 
can be quantified and that logistic plans and calculations are 
only as reliable as the operational assumptions upon which 
they are based. 

While planning can aid us in anticipating requirements, 
we recognize that even the best supported forces will suffer 
shortages of supplies and services. This may be the result of 
poor planning, enemy action, an unanticipated shift in the 
character of an operation, or simply an unforeseen change in 
the fortunes of war. Whatever the cause for the shortage, 
command and control must provide the means for allocating 
limited resources in accordance with the requirements of the 
situation. Most logistics systems employ a system of priori- 
ties to help resolve this dilemma. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Priorities constitute the relative order of need for a com- 
modity or service.'^ Priorities may be assigned based upon the 
particular mission or tasks assigned. For example, the unit 
carrying out the most critical task often receives first priority 
for support. Sometimes the importance of a resource to a 
unit's continued effectiveness may determine priority. In this 
scheme, units with the most urgent need for supplies or serv- 
ices in order to keep operating will have first call on those re- 
sources. Distributors of virtually all commodities and services 
employ some type of priority system. The use of priorities is 
most critical in the allocation of combat-essential or life- 
sustaining resources such as ammunition or medical support. 
Priorities for the distribution of scarce resources can also de- 
pend on the pattern of battles and engagements as well as 
what is happening in the overall campaign. The establishment 
of priorities and the allocation of resources in accordance 
with those priorities is a function of command, not logistics. 
Command and control implements the priorities determined 
by the commander. 

The value of establishing priorities in logistics was illus- 
trated in the Korean war. After the Chinese entry into the war, 
the 1 st Marine Division was surrounded near the Chosin Res- 
ervoir in northern Korea. The division needed significant sup- 
plies to fight its way out, but overland supply routes were cut 
off. Resupply of troops in the reservoir area became the first 
priority for the Combat Cargo Command of the Far East. A 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

massive aerial resupply effort followed, providing the divi- 
sion with the ammunition, food, fuel, and other supplies it 
needed to conduct a breakout.'^ 

We recognize that uncertainty is an inherent characteristic 
of war and that it will be impossible to anticipate and plan for 
all future requirements. Logisticians spend much of their time 
dealing with unanticipated demands. For this reason, logisti- 
cians must develop considerable expertise in solving a great 
variety of problems. The command and control procedures, 
organizations, and support structure that aid logisticians in 
their work must provide flexible tools that aid, rather than 
hinder, rapid and responsive problem solving. 

Because the stakes of war are so high, the cost of failure so 
great, and the needs of comrades-in-arms so urgent, logisti- 
cians will often be tempted to focus all of their energies on 
dealing the with unanticipated demands on an ad hoc basis. In 
many cases, this will be appropriate. In others, there will be a 
pattern to these demands that suggests a change in approach 
that leads to a solution to the problem. In the fighting around 
Metz in the fall of 1944, for example, American logisticians 
were overwhelmed with emergency requests for 60mm mor- 
tar ammunition. As the U.S. supply system was, at that time, 
stretched to its breaking point, logisticians decided that the 
way to deal with these requests was to fabricate mortars that 
could fire the supplies of 50mm mortar rounds that had re- 
cently been captured from the enemy. ^^ 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Effectiveness versus efficiency 

Successful logistics requires both effectiveness and effi- 
ciency. While we would like to obtain total effectiveness and 
complete efficiency in our logistics system, we must usually 
accept a degree of inefficiency to ensure effectiveness or 
must sacrifice some measure of effectiveness in order to 
achieve greater efficiency. This reality creates an inherent 
tension, as we attempt to find the proper balance between ef- 
fectiveness and efficiency.'"^ 

If we had unlimited resources, we could devote all our at- 
tention to effectiveness. We could provide each unit with sup- 
plies and services not just for its immediate needs but for any 
possible future needs. Distribution would be based on a push 
system and would use the unit distribution method of deliv- 
ery, relieving the supported unit of most logistics responsi- 
bilities. Planning factors would include generous safety 
margins to ensure resources were always available. Command 
and control would be highly decentralized with each unit hav- 
ing its own full-service logistics organization and capability. 

We must be careful, however, not to equate the effective- 
ness of logistics simply with the quantity of goods and serv- 
ices which are provided. Providing too many supplies can be 
as disruptive as not having enough. Consider the use of 
margins for error. While it may seem that we should include 
margins for error in all our calculations, this practice can sig- 
nificantly reduce the overall effectiveness of the logistics 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

system and degrade the quality of support it provides. Mar- 
gins for error translate directly into the need to procure addi- 
tional items, increased inventory at many points in the 
distribution chain, and increased strain on storage and trans- 
portation. Supplies that are superfluous are just as expensive 
to buy and just as ponderous to move, store, distribute, and 
account for as necessary stocks. Service requirements that 
were overestimated can result in overabundance at one point 
and deficiencies at another. 

Rather than attempt to provide "a little extra, just in case," 
we must strive to make accurate requirements forecasts and 
be prepared to adapt and innovate when those forecasts fall 
short of the mark or when weather, enemy action, or some un- 
foreseen circumstance renders those predictions obsolete. As 
the situation changes, our logistics system must have the 
flexibility and responsiveness to make the required alterations 
in the chain of production, transportation, and distribution. 

On the other hand, if the objective is simply to maximize 
efficiency in our logistics system, we would probably use a 
pure pull system, filling requirements only in response to a 
specific request. We would rely primarily on supply point dis- 
tribution, minimizing the burden on the logistics system to 
deliver supplies and services. Logistic planning would con- 
tinuously refine formulas and calculations in an effort to 
achieve increasing precision in predicting requirements and 
allocating resources. We would attempt to reduce the amount 
of resources on hand to the lowest possible level, providing 


Logistics MCDP 4 

little or no safety margin to deal with unforeseen occurrences. 
Command and control would be highly centralized in an ef- 
fort to ensure positive control of all assets at all times. 

In an effort to improve efficiency, military logistics is at- 
tempting to apply logistics techniques developed in the com- 
mercial sector where "just-in-time" inventory management 
and improved methods for forecasting demand are well estab- 
lished. We should not hesitate to employ any technique which 
offers a means to increase our capabilities. However, in con- 
sidering the adoption of these techniques for military pur- 
poses, logisticians can never forget that their objective and 
the environment in which they operate differs significantly 
from that of their business counterparts. Business is focused 
on the provision of a product or service in a safe and coopera- 
tive environment.'^ Methods that prove efficient in peacetime 
will not necessarily succeed under the far more demanding 
conditions of war. For example, the ability of a parcel service 
to deliver a package anywhere in the world in a matter of 
hours is based on the assumption that no one is shooting at 
the aircraft carrying that package. 

The essential lesson of this discussion is that we must bal- 
ance effectiveness and efficiency in the conduct of logistics. 
Efficiency contributes to effectiveness. While we always need 
to consider efficiency in our logistics system, effectiveness in 
the support of operations takes precedence over efficiency. 
Logistics must consider not just efficiency and cost- 
effectiveness, but operational readiness and the requirement 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

to deliver support in an environment characterized by vio- 
lence, danger, friction, uncertainty, fluidity, and disorder. We 
must sacrifice some measure of efficiency to maintain effec- 
tiveness. Furthermore, we must ensure that efficiency does not 
become an end unto itself. Effectiveness should always be the 
defining feature of our logistics system. 

Approaches to logistics 

Having studied the evolution, process, functions, and levels of 
logistics, as well as the elements of logistics systems, we con- 
clude with an examination of approaches to logistics. We can 
place approaches to logistics on a spectrum according to their 
degree of independence. At one end of the spectrum is com- 
plete dependence on outside sources for support. Military 
units which have no organic support capabilities draw all sus- 
tainment from the local surroundings. Ancient armies that 
lived by foraging used this approach, as do certain modem 
guerrilla groups. At the other end of the spectrum is total self- 
sufficiency. The force brings with it everything it needs to 
sustain its efforts. (See figure 7, page 76.) While no force 
achieves complete independence from use of local resources, 
18th century European armies, colonial armies in the 19th 
century, and modem naval forces most closely approximate 
self-sufficient forces. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Guerrilla Militias Conventional Expeditionary Naval 

forces forces forces forces 

Dependency Self-sufficiency 

Figure 7. Approaches to logistics. 

A military force's approach to logistics must be tailored to 
its own warfighting philosophy or strategy. Around the world, 
the vast majority of military units are designed to fight within 
their own countries or on the territory of an immediate neigh- 
bor. Forces organized for territorial or home defense gener- 
ally have limited logistics organizations. They do not expect 
to fight far from their permanent bases and can draw on local 
sources for basic supplies. Conventional armies and air forces 
have extensive support requirements. While they normally 
have organic logistics organizations to satisfy unique military 
requirements for ammunition and maintenance, most armies 
and air forces, even those configured for forward deployment, 
rely heavily on local procurement for basic commodities such 
as water, food, fuel, or construction material. 

In contrast, forces developed to conduct expeditionary op- 
erations tend to be more self-sufficient. Expeditionary forces 
are often explicitly designed, trained, and equipped for over- 
seas service. Their organization and equipment emphasize 
economy, flexibility, and deployability. Expeditionary forces 


MCDP 4 Logistics Theory 

often operate in areas where resources or infrastructure are 
limited. Many universal items like fresh water, lumber, or 
even sand are not reliably available in these parts of the 
world. Consequently, an expeditionary force must be pre- 
pared to carry, have delivered from a permanent base, or fab- 
ricate every single item it needs. Naval forces configured for 
expeditionary operations are the most self-sufficient. They are 
capable of conducting operations independent of support from 
permanent or forward land bases for an extended period. 
They are self-reliant, self-sustaining, and adaptable to the 
most austere environments. 

In practice, most military organizations use a mix of or- 
ganic capabilities and locally procured resources to sustain 
their operations. The Marine Corps, however, is a naval force 
designed for expeditionary operations. The nature of the op- 
erations we conduct and the environments in which we oper- 
ate demand an approach to logistics that emphasizes 


We have examined a variety of theoretical aspects of logis- 
tics. The evolution of logistics demonstrates that warfare and 
logistics are inextricably linked; changes in warfare can have 
a profound impact on logistics while changes in logistics ca- 
pabilities can in turn alter significant components of warfare. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

The evolution of logistics also shows that the relative im- 
portance of logistics as a function of warfare has been stead- 
ily increasing. The logistics process provides a framework 
around which to build a logistics system. The discussion of 
the functions and levels of logistics illustrates the scope, com- 
plexity, and interrelationships of logistics and demonstrates 
that a logistics system must be capable of carrying out all six 
functions and operating at all three levels of logistics in order 
to fully support the operating forces. In examining the 
makeup of any logistics system, we identified bases, distribu- 
tion procedures, and command and control as key elements. 
We noted that Marine forces must make use of a variety of 
basing options, a combination of push and pull distribution 
procedures, and flexible and responsive command and con- 
trol. Finally, we compared approaches to logistics, ranging 
from complete self-sufficiency to total dependence. We con- 
cluded that expeditionary warfare requires the Marine Corps 
to provide forces that are largely self-sufficient. In the next 
chapter, we discuss the features of a Marine logistics system 
based on the characteristics described above. 


Chapter 3 

Creating Effective 

"When Marines go ashore, they start from zero. Pioneering 
logistics troops . . . build sustainability ashore to support op- 
erations across the entire spectrum of combat with the en- 
tire range of logistics. Combat logistics is second nature to 
Marine logisticians. . . .All this translates to an innate re- 
sponsiveness and relative ease of movement. '" 

— C. E. Mundy, Jr. 

"The way to meet . . . logistical demands is to flow your re- 
sources to the focus of effort — the highest priority need at the 
time. This requires flexibility, in the form of intelligent, well- 
trained Marines . . . ."^ 

— J. A. Brabham 

MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

Acknowledging the basic nature and theory of logistics 
outlined in the first and second chapters, we can now 
discuss how to make logistics work for us. What are the char- 
acteristics of effective logistics, and how can we best incorpo- 
rate them into our force? 

The challenge to logistics 

Let us review some of the challenges facing logistics. What 
obstacles must our logistics system overcome, and what must 
it accomplish? First, logistics must enhance, not inhibit, our 
operational designs. While we know that logistics establishes 
the limits of what is operationally possible, we must build a 
logistics system that extends those limits as far as possible. 
Second, our logistics system must anticipate requirements, 
positioning support in advance of stated needs in order to fa- 
cilitate tempo and enabling us to fight the present battle, the 
next battle, and the battle after next. Next, since we recognize 
that friction and uncertainty will make it impossible to antici- 
pate all requirements, our logistics system must he flexible, 
adaptable, and responsive. It must be able to respond to un- 
anticipated demand and rapidly shift support to exploit oppor- 
tunities as they arise in the battlespace. Finally, our logistics 
must be effective yet efficient. It is important that our logistics 
system does not have overstocks and inefficiencies that drain 
our combat power. At the same time, we must ensure we do 
not sacrifice combat effectiveness for the sake of efficiency. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

We must accept some measure of inefficiency in order to pro- 
vide the margin of safety required to deal with unforeseen cir- 
cumstances. Said another way, we must guard against 
logistics becoming an end unto itself, and ensure that logistics 
is always focused on the support of operations. 

Maneuver warfare 

Our logistics capabilities must first and foremost support our 
warfighting philosophy. Marines are guided by the philoso- 
phy of maneuver warfare, an approach to warfighting that 
emphasizes rapid, focused effort, tactical and operational 
flexibility, and decentralized adaptation.^ Because this ap- 
proach is primarily concerned with the enemy, and particu- 
larly the destruction of the enemy's cohesion, it is easy to 
think that maneuver warfare has little to do with logistics. 
This is not true. The practice of maneuver warfare has funda- 
mental implications on the way a force is organized, moved, 
managed, and supplied. All Marines must understand how lo- 
gistics influences the conduct of maneuver warfare. While lo- 
gistics units normally do not directly attack the enemy, their 
actions have a significant impact on the ability to gain an ad- 
vantage over the enemy, generate tempo, and exploit opportu- 
nities. If Marine forces are to execute maneuver warfare, 
logistics units and logisticians who move and maintain those 
forces must not only be able to support maneuver warfare but 
must also apply its precepts to their own actions. 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

Centers of Gravity and Critical Vulnerabilities 

Maneuver warfare focuses on the enemy. The aim is to pre- 
sent the enemy with a series of dilemmas in which events 
happen unexpectedly and more quickly than the enemy can 
react to. Marines attempt to identify the adversary's centers 
of gravity, those elements from which the enemy draws 
strength, and to locate critical vulnerabilities which, if ex- 
ploited, can help us destroy, neutralize, or undermine the cen- 
ters of gravity. Our logistics capabilities must allow us to 
seek out and exploit these critical vulnerabilities. Logistics 
must provide us the flexibility to avoid attacking an enemy's 
strength and the agility to exploit opportunities and to strike 
at known weaknesses. It must expand, not restrict, our opera- 
tional possibilities. At the same time, we must ensure that our 
logistics capability does not become a critical vulnerability 
that our foe can exploit. We must protect our logistics bases 
and units while building redundancy into our logistics system, 
preventing the enemy from disrupting our efforts simply by 
striking at our logistics. 

Focus of Effort and the Main Effort 

Identification of the enemy's centers of gravity and critical 
vulnerabilities helps us to concentrate our efforts on objec- 
tives most likely to achieve success. The enemy elements on 
which we will concentrate are X\\q focus of effort. The unit or 
task organization which will perform the key actions against 
this target is the main effort. Identifying the focus of effort 
and designating a main effort to concentrate on the focus of 


Logistics MCDP 4 

effort are the commander's bid to achieve a decision. The 
commander ensures that all forces support the main effort ei- 
ther directly or indirectly. 

Like our combat and combat support capabilities, our lo- 
gistics capabilities must be focused. As a rule, the main effort 
is first in line for most resources. It is at the main effort that a 
given resource is most likely to have the greatest impact on 
the outcome of the battle or campaign. This does not mean, 
however, that the main effort should be burdened with re- 
sources that it does not need. Providing too much or the 
wrong kind of resources can hinder the main effort as much 
as a lack of support. Neither does it imply that we should con- 
sider only the needs of the main effort. We cannot support the 
main effort at the exclusion of all others. All essential activi- 
ties require some degree of support, even if that support is 
limited to basic life support such as food, water, and medical 
assistance. Likewise, the inclination in favor of the main ef- 
fort excludes resources or activities that cannot have a timely 
effect on the battle or campaign. Nonetheless, in the absence 
of a compelling reason to the contrary, the main effort should 
have the highest priority for scarce supplies and services. 

All units contribute to the provision of logistic support to 
the main effort, not just logistics organizations. Units not at 
the main effort can enhance its logistic support by reducing to 
the lowest possible level their use of resources that are useful 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

to the main effort. These resources include supplies, the serv- 
ices of logistics units, and the attention of those responsible 
for the overall logistic effort. 

We also recognize that opportunities in the battlespace are 
fleeting and that the enemy will try to protect critical vulner- 
abilities. As the situation changes, the commander may desig- 
nate a new main effort or even change the focus of effort. Our 
logistics system must provide the flexibility and agility that 
enable us to exploit opportunities as they present themselves. 
It must be able to anticipate developments and position re- 
sources to support future requirements, in effect staying one 
phase ahead of the current battle. At the same time, the logis- 
tics system must adapt to unforeseen circumstances and be 
able to shift the logistic focus in concert with any shift in the 
main effort. 


Maneuver warfare depends heavily upon the use of tempo, 
both as a means of exploiting opportunities and as a weapon 
in its own right. Tempo is the consistent ability to act fast, to 
sustain rapidity of action over time. We seek to operate at a 
higher relative tempo than the enemy. Superior tempo allows 
us to seize the initiative and dictate the terms of combat, forc- 
ing the enemy to react to us. Logistics makes a critical contri- 
bution to the generation and maintenance of tempo. An 
effective logistics system enables us to quickly focus combat 
power and sustains that combat power throughout the course 


Logistics MCDP 4 

of operations. Logistics can maintain tempo by rapidly deliv- 
ering supplies, repositioning forces, and repairing or replac- 
ing damaged equipment. Finally, a responsive logistics 
capability enhances tempo by anticipating requirements and 
adapting to new requirements, expanding rather than limiting 
the commander's operational possibilities. 

Maintaining tempo requires that logisticians be extraordi- 
narily alert. Logisticians at all levels must be aware of the full 
scope of the operation so that, at any given time and place, 
they understand what needs to be done to keep it moving for- 
ward. They must exercise considerable initiative, doing what 
needs to be done as soon as it needs to be done. Supporting 
tempo requires logistics units to operate at a high tempo. In 
high-tempo operations, displacements are often rapid and fre- 
quent, facilities are usually austere, and priorities may shift 
frequently. Greater demands will be placed on junior leaders 
and individual Marines, who will have to possess a wide 
range of technical, military, and leadership skills. While the 
techniques used to provide services at times resemble the 
classic assembly line, there will be no room for the assembly 
line mentality. Overspecialization, in which a person is 
trained to do a small number of highly repetitive tasks and 
then insulated from other duties, is rarely compatible with a 
high tempo of operations. 

In seeking to support a high tempo of operations, we must 
be careful not to mistake haste for energy, confuse sloppiness 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

with boldness, or substitute activity for action. Maintaining a 
high tempo of operations requires deliberate action tailored to 
the needs of the moment, not self-generated friction. A logis- 
tics unit operating at a high tempo may not seem busier than a 
similar organization operating at a slower tempo. However, 
each action performed by members of the unit operating at 
high tempo is more likely to be a purposeful one and less 
likely to be a matter of habit or routine. That is to say, every 
member of a logistics unit operating at a high tempo must 
constantly ask, "What is the best way for me to use my lim- 
ited time and resources to help my supported unit fulfill its 

Commander's Intent 

If logisticians are to support a high tempo of operations, they 
cannot waste time waiting to be told what is required of them. 
Rather, they must make a concerted effort to understand what 
the commander is trying to do and the commander's plans for 
doing it. The commander's intent describes the purpose of the 
assigned task. A clear understanding of the intent becomes 
the basis for unity of effort and the exercise of initiative. Like 
all other participants in an operation, logisticians must inter- 
nalize the commander's intent to the point where it becomes 
the common property of the entire force. This shared under- 
standing allows logisticians to make informed judgments 
about such things as the allocation of resources, the best tech- 
niques for moving units and supplies, and the best approach 
to providing various services. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

The value of the commander's intent can be seen in all 
sorts of operations but is most obvious in situations where 
formal communications break down. One of the immediate 
effects of the German offensive that began in March 1918 
was the psychological paralysis of the command structure of 
the British Expeditionary Force. While this breakdown pre- 
cluded the issuance of coherent orders for a number of days, 
it did not hinder logistics units from effectively participating 
in the defense. Thanks to a shared understanding of the defen- 
sive battle developed during a series of discussions held the 
previous winter, British logisticians were able to make the 
best use of remaining resources to support the deployment of 
provisional combat units and operational reserves. These 
forces eventually brought the attack to a standstill.'^ 

Marine logistics 

Logistics is a Service responsibility.^ Therefore, it is essential 
to support the Marine Corps' warfighting philosophy with 
Marine-style logistics. The Marine logistics system is de- 
signed to meet the particular demands of naval expeditionary 
operations and the peculiar needs of high-tempo, fluid, and 
decisive operations required by our warfighting philosophy. 
Marine logistics provides the unique capabilities which make 
Marine forces rapidly deployable, self-reliant, and self- 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

Expeditionary operations project combat power over great 
distances. Forces must be able to deploy far from their home 
bases and fight effectively when they arrive. An expedition- 
ary force's value lies in its ability to reach a distant area of 
operations in a timely manner, project power at the required 
time and place, and sustain the effort until the mission is ac- 
complished. The conduct of expeditionary operations from 
the sea places additional demands on the expeditionary force. 
The force must be largely independent of land bases and ca- 
pable of responding to a wide variety of missions on short no- 
tice. Naval expeditionary operations require an approach to 
logistics that emphasizes self-sufficiency and capabilities tai- 
lored to function in the littoral environment. This has specific 
implications for the force as a whole and the logistics system 
in particular. 

Marine forces must be designed for expeditionary opera- 
tions. We must build our forces with deployment and sustain- 
ment in mind. Our organization and equipment has to be 
efficient as well as effective. While our forces must have the 
required capabilities, we must always remain conscious of 
our limited transportation assets. Aircraft seats, boat spaces, 
and cargo capacity are valuable commodities which must be 
used wisely. Units, weapons, and equipment that can perform 
multiple functions and provide significant capabilities in a va- 
riety of missions are more useful than assets which are spe- 
cialized for the conduct of a single function or mission. We 
must consider sustainment requirements in addition to opera- 
tional capabilities in designing our force; capabilities which 


Logistics MCDP 4 

cannot be maintained or supplied are useless in an expedition- 
ary environment. Doctrine, procedures, and training and edu- 
cation must emphasize discipline in the use of resources and 
the ability to adapt basic capabilities to meet the requirements 
of many different scenarios. 

Marine logistics must be able to build logistics capabilities 
where no capabilities exist. Our logistics must provide the 
self-sufficiency required to execute naval expeditionary opera- 
tions. It must be able to create or deliver all of the supplies 
and services required to sustain the force. It must be able to 
function in austere environments without reliance on perma- 
nent bases or a developed infrastructure. Our logistics system 
must be naval in character, capable of operating with equal 
agility on land, at sea, or in the littoral region where the two 
environments meet. It must be able to exploit the advantages 
inherent in naval operations through the seabasing of logistics 
and maritime prepositioning. At the same time, it must be 
able to freely and rapidly transfer resources from ship to 
shore, ensuring continuous support of forces ashore. While 
our logistics capability must be largely self-sufficient, we 
must possess the infrastructure and interoperability to draw 
from national, theater, or host-nation logistics resources when 
we conduct extended operations ashore. 

Like the forces it supports, our logistics capability must be 
flexible and economical. It must have the flexibility to support 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

the variety of missions our forces will be called upon to exe- 
cute. It must provide this flexibility without pausing to recon- 
figure or deploy additional assets. The logistics system must 
not take up more space or consume more resources than are 
absolutely necessary. We cannot afford to sacrifice combat 
power in order to carry excess capacity. 

An additional characteristic of naval expeditionary forces 
is the ability to ''recock.'" Our forces can complete one mis- 
sion, reembark, and move on to the next task without hesita- 
tion. Our logistics system must contribute to this capability. 
Our logistics system must have the agility and redundancy to 
do more than one thing at a time. It must be able to shift its 
focus and adapt to rapid changes in the course of a campaign 
or major operation. We must consider redeployment as well 
as deployment in designing our capabilities and ensure that 
we can depart with the same urgency as we arrived. Generat- 
ing combat power is not sufficient; we must also place an em- 
phasis on regenerating that combat power once it has been 

Core Capabilities 

Logistics must be tailored to the conditions under which a 
military force operates. To provide the forces necessary for 
expeditionary warfare, the Marine Corps must possess certain 
core logistics capabilities. These core capabilities cut across 
the three levels of logistics and encompass all six logistics 


Logistics MCDP 4 

In order to generate, deploy, and sustain expeditionary 
forces, the Marine Corps must have strategic-level core logis- 
tics capabilities which enable us to procure weapons and 
equipment, mobilize forces, prepare and stage units for de- 
ployment, regenerate forces, and effectively manage the flow 
of resources from the strategic to the tactical level. Strategic- 
level core logistics capabilities are embodied in an acquisi- 
tion system, bases and stations, facilities required for the 
maintenance of unique Marine equipment and the provision 
of Service-specific supply items, and effective Service-level 
command and control of logistics . 

If the Marine Corps is to fulfill its role as a fighting force 
for regional contingencies, it must possess operational- level 
core logistics capabilities to support force closure, sustain- 
ment, and reconstitution and redeployment of Marine forces 
in theater. Operational-level core logistics capabilities in- 
clude the establishment of intermediate and forward support 
bases, the ability to support the arrival and assembly areas 
for troops reaching the theater, the ability to coordinate with 
joint, other Service, and host nation agencies for provision of 
continued support, the capability to reconstitute and redeploy 
forces for follow-on missions, and operational-level command 
and control for the effective planning and management of 
operational-level logistic efforts. 

If the Marine Corps is to practice maneuver warfare within 
the littoral regions of the world, it must have tactical-level 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

core logistics capabilities which can deliver flexible and re- 
sponsive combat service support to meet the needs of the 
forces engaged in operations. Tactical-level core logistics ca- 
pabilities required are supply and maintenance systems to 
provide materiel readiness, transportation systems to effect 
distribution, services, general engineering, health services, 
and tactical-level command and control which links operation 
plans and the resulting logistic requirements to logistic capa- 
bilities and responses. 


Successful logistics begins with planning. The objective of 
Marine logistic planning is to match the deployment and sus- 
tainment activities of our logistics system to the logistic re- 
quirements of the operating forces. Planning provides the 
means to evaluate the feasibility of various tactical options 
and to determine the adequacy of resources to support them. 
It assists us in anticipating requirements and positioning re- 
sources to meet those requirements. It establishes the frame- 
work for the execution and coordination of logistic support in 
accordance with the commander's intent and the concept of 
operations. Planning also provides the basis for adapting to 
new situations; through their participation in the planning 
process, logisticians gain situational awareness, facilitating 
their ability to deliver flexible and responsive support when 
confronted with changing circumstances. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Logistic planning encompasses all three levels of planning: 
conceptual, functional, and detailed.^ (See figure 8.) Concep- 
tual planning establishes overall objectives and develops 
broad concepts for action. Logisticians must participate in the 
commander 's conceptual planning to ensure that operational 
concepts under consideration can be supported by the re- 
sources available and that logistic factors have been taken 
into account in the development of the operational design. 
Participation in conceptual planning also provides the logis- 
tics planner with the understanding needed to develop func- 
tional and detailed logistic plans that can support the 
operation plans. 

Functional planning involves the development of general 
plans for the conduct of specific warfighting functions such 
as aviation, fire support, intelligence, or logistics. Logistic 
functional plans establish the overall logistic support concept 
and lay out the framework for the development of detailed 
plans for specific logistics functions. Because of our expedi- 
tionary nature. Marine logistic functional planning at the 
strategic and operational levels usually encompasses two re- 
lated planning areas: force deployment planning and sustain- 
ment planning. Both are critical to the development and 
maintenance of combat power within the area of operations. 
Force deployment and sustainment plans must be developed 
concurrently to ensure that the required combat elements can 
be deployed and sustained to accomplish the mission. At the 
tactical level, logistic functional planning develops the con- 
cept of combat service support. 



Creating Effective Logistics 

What to do & why 

Concept planning 
establishes goals & 
objectives as well as 
broad schemes for 
achieving them. 

Functional planning 
designs supporting 
plans for discrete 
functional activities. 

Detailed planning 
works out the partic- 
ulars of execution 
based on goal & 
objectives already 

How to do it 


e.g., courses of action, 
outline plans, con- 
cepts of operations, 
commander's intent, 


e.g., deployment 
plans, sustainment 
plans, concepts of 
combat service sup- 


e.g., embarkation 
plans, movement 
plans, maintenance 
plans, health service 
support plans, etc. 



Figure 8. Levels of planning. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Detailed planning uses the broad designs of conceptual 
planning and the framework of functional planning to make 
comprehensive plans for execution. Detailed planning works 
out the scheduling, coordination, or technical issues involved 
with directing, moving, and sustaining forces. Much of logis- 
tic planning is, in fact, detailed planning. Detailed plans are 
developed for embarkation, transportation, supply and resup- 
ply, provision of maintenance and health services, and other 
logistics functions. It is important to remember that effective 
detailed planning depends on the establishment of sound 
functional logistic plans and integration with the conceptual 
plan for the operation. 

Planners must be sensitive to the time available. Logisti- 
cians must be able to plan in both deliberate and rapid plan- 
ning situations. In deliberate planning, we use time to develop 
our knowledge of the area of operations, analyze potential re- 
quirements, calculate resources required, detail a number of 
options for the provision of logistic support, and test and re- 
fine the resulting logistic plans. In addition to developing the 
plans themselves, during deliberate planning, we practice and 
improve our planning techniques. In rapid planning, we meet 
the requirements of a crisis by adapting an existing plan to the 
current conditions or by rapidly developing a new plan which 
provides the basis for supporting the operational concept. 

We strive for three primary characteristics in the develop- 
ment of logistic plans : integration with operation plans, flexi- 
bility, and simplicity. If our logistic plans are to expand the 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

limits of our operations, they must, first and foremost, be in- 
tegrated with operation plans. It is incumbent on the com- 
mander to ensure that the concept of operations is logisticly 
supportable in every phase of execution. Integration is 
achieved in part by designating a main effort and providing a 
clear statement of intent around which all aspects of the op- 
eration are planned. It is also achieved by ensuring that the 
planning process is participatory, involving the commander 
and all members of the staff. Participatory planning means 
cooperation both horizontally and vertically within the or- 
ganization; logistics planners must be intimately familiar with 
the details of intelligence, operations, fire support, and avia- 
tion plans just as representatives of those functions must 
participate in the development of logistic plans. Finally, inte- 
gration is aided by the development of mutual understanding 
and implicit communications among the commander, the lo- 
gistician, and the rest of the staff during training evolutions. 

Logistic plans must be flexible in order to deal with the un- 
certainties of war and adapt to changing conditions in the bat- 
tlespace. Flexible logistic plans support the execution of a 
variety of different operational courses of action. These plans 
may even have specific branches and sequels to the basic lo- 
gistic plan so that we can anticipate requirements related to 
the course of future operations. We build flexibility into our 
logistic plans by providing a number of ways to provide sup- 
port so that minor oversights, shortfalls, or unforeseen cir- 
cumstances will not undermine our efforts. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Finally, our logistic plans must be as simple as the situa- 
tion allows. Providing logistic support to Marine forces oper- 
ating in an expeditionary environment is an inherently 
complex task. Logisticians must develop plans that rapidly 
deploy large forces over vast distances and that sustain those 
forces by providing huge quantities of resources and a wide 
variety of services while engaging in high-tempo operations 
on land, in the air, and at sea. Logistics planners employ com- 
plex tools such as usage data, consumption rates, personnel 
and equipment densities, asset tracking systems, and other 
data bases and information systems in an effort to calculate 
requirements and match resources to those requirements. 
While the problem facing the logistician is complex and the 
methods used to develop a solution may be sophisticated, this 
does not necessarily mean that the resulting plan must also be 
complicated. A good logistic plan recognizes that in warfare 
the simple becomes difficult and the difficult seemingly im- 
possible. We build our logistic plans around simple, compel- 
ling concepts. We ensure that the underlying intent behind the 
concept is understood, reducing the requirement for detailed 
and explicit instructions covering every eventuality. We at- 
tempt to limit the number of actions required in the plan to 
the minimum. We rely on methods and standing operating 
procedures developed and perfected during training to reduce 
the complexity of specific logistics processes. 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

Command and Control 

Planning makes up an essential and significant part of com- 
mand and control. Planning provides the means to anticipate 
future requirements and, through preparation, to adapt to 
them prior to execution. We must also be able to adapt to 
situations as they unfold. Command and control of logistics 
capabilities provides the means for implementing our logistic 
plans and for modifying those plans based upon unfolding 
events. Effective command and control of logistics helps to 
anticipate demand, enables the tailoring of resources to spe- 
cific needs, and provides responsiveness to the requirements 
of the operating forces. A commander's ability to control the 
logistics system and adapt to changing circumstances can 
have a significant effect on the flexibility and momentum of 

Logistics must make the most effective use of limited as- 
sets in order to generate and sustain combat power. Command 
and control of logistics helps ensure the effective employment 
of resources in the face of competing demands raised by 
forces engaged in operations. Logistics command and control 
enables us to monitor unfolding events, make sound and 
timely decisions on resource allocation, and implement those 
decisions quickly, facilitating the generation and maintenance 
of tempo. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Because of inherent tension between the limited availabil- 
ity of resources and the widespread need for those resources, 
logistics generally requires greater centralization of control 
than other military functions. Centralized control helps make 
most efficient use of resources in environments where operat- 
ing forces are competing for limited assets. In addition, cen- 
tralized control provides the commander with the flexibility 
to allocate critical resources based on changing conditions or 
in response to new opportunities. At the same time, we recog- 
nize that centralization can inhibit responsiveness, initiative, 
and the ability of individual units to exploit opportunities. 
Thus, we seek to achieve a balance in the degree of control 
used by our logistics system. In general, we employ greater 
centralized control at the strategic and operational levels of 
logistics and attempt to decentralize the performance of tacti- 
cal logistics functions to the maximum extent possible. 

Building capabilities 

An effective logistics capability is made up of many compo- 
nents. Organization, personnel, doctrine, education and train- 
ing, procedures, and equipment all contribute to the 
development of a responsive logistics system. The most im- 
portant element in any logistics system is the people who 
make it work. Marines are the key to the execution of effective 
Marine logistics. More than anything else, it is the people, 
those who are supported by the logistics system and those 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

who provide the support, who determine whether it will suc- 
ceed or fail, whether it supports the decisive maneuver of 
friendly forces or aids the enemy by contributing to friction. 
For this reason, we will discuss the human factors critical in 
building an effective logistics capability — leadership, disci- 
pline, attention to detail, and responsiveness — before turning 
our attention to the other key aspects of our logistics system. 


Like all endeavors in war, effective logistics depends upon 
leadership. Logistics is a command responsibility, not the ex- 
clusive province of technicians or specialists. Commanders 
must lead the logistic effort, just as they lead all other aspects 
of their command. They do this in several ways. They provide 
a clear statement of intent and the specific guidance required 
to focus the logistic effort. They ensure that logistics consid- 
erations are integrated throughout the planning process, that 
operation plans are supportable, and that the logistic plans 
which will generate and sustain the unit's combat power are 
developed in conjunction with those operation plans. They su- 
pervise the logistic effort, amplifying and clarifying guidance 
when necessary and lending the commander's influence 
where required to ensure the unit receives the necessary sup- 
port from outside agencies. Finally, the commander supports 
the efforts of logisticians, ensuring that they are an integral 
part of the team and encouraging their exercise of boldness 
and initiative while carrying out the commander's intent. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

During operations, logistics sections and units must per- 
form complex tasks under difficult and dangerous conditions. 
Aggressive and enthusiastic leadership from officers and non- 
commissioned officers is required to ensure effective per- 
formance. Just as in combat or combat support units, 
leadership in logistics units strives to build teamwork, mutual 
trust, and a willingness to exercise initiative. Said another 
way, effective leadership is the key to effective logistics. 


Discipline is another critical factor in providing effective lo- 
gistics. Discipline is required because demand will almost al- 
ways exceed available resources. Requests for unneeded 
resources clog the system and block the distribution of 
needed material. Demands for excess support — that little ex- 
tra "just in case" — can place an extraordinary burden on the 
logistics system; when repeated across an entire force, these 
demands create what has been called the "snowball effect," 
an ever- increasing requirement for unnecessary resources 
which reduces both effectiveness and efficiency. Overstat- 
ing the urgency of a request for support undercuts the system 
and results in the diversion of resources from the main effort.^ 

A logistics system enforces discipline through the estab- 
lishment and administration of priorities and allocations. 
Nevertheless, no set of procedures will be effective without 
the commitment of the people who use and operate the sys- 
tem to make it work. Discipline starts with the commander. 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

The commander of a unit must set the standards and enforce 
discipline within it. Discipline must also extend throughout 
the organization. In war, as in most other human endeavors, 
the most important form of discipline is self-discipline. Self- 
discipline makes it possible for individuals to subordinate 
their personal needs, desires, and interests to the greater good 
of their unit, their Service, and their country. More specifi- 
cally, self-discipline enables a hungry Marine to distribute ra- 
tions fairly, a tired Marine to doublecheck the details of a 
requisition, and a scared Marine to go into harm's way to 
make a repair or deliver ammunition. 

Attention to Detail 

Logistics is a highly complex enterprise in which no simple 
theories or easily learned management techniques can substi- 
tute for detailed knowledge of a wide variety of subjects. Lo- 
gistics involves dealing with, among other things, people, 
money, equipment, ammunition, fuel, food, water, ships, air- 
craft, roads, ports, and medical services. Each of these, 
moreover, has a logic of its own. For this reason, a logistician 
must be a master of detail. The logistician must be able to un- 
derstand, in all its complexity, the reality represented by a 
long list of items or the abstract codes on a computer printout. 
The logistician must be able to see patterns that arise from 
raw data, establish the relationships between small problems, 
and discover the root causes of big ones. In solving these 
problems, the logistician must use the full powers of a Marine 
leader to devise and implement systematic solutions. In most 
cases, these will involve alterations to existing procedures 


Logistics MCDP 4 

and, usually more important, a mixture of training and educa- 
tion that alerts other Marines to a problem and empowers 
them to deal with it. 


Responsiveness is often the yardstick by which effective lo- 
gistics is measured. Stated simply, responsiveness is the abil- 
ity to provide the right support, at the right time, at the right 
place. It is through responsiveness that we build confidence in 
our logistics system. A responsive logistics system makes lo- 
gistics a force multiplier; a nonresponsive logistics system is 
an anchor holding back the efforts of the entire organization. 
It is in responsiveness that the real alliance between logistics 
and operations is either established or dissolved. For this rea- 
son, responsiveness is an essential characteristic of logistics. 

Planning, procedures, information systems, and other parts 
of the logistics system help develop responsiveness in the 
system, but it is the attitude and skills of the people who oper- 
ate the system that determine whether it will be responsive. 
Logisticians understand that war stimulates requirements 
which cannot be predicted through usage rates or mainte- 
nance schedules. Not only are logisticians responsible for 
identifying and providing the tangible, quantifiable elements 
of making war, but also through their service they provide re- 
assurance and peace-of-mind that the needs of the force will 
always be met. 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

If they are to anticipate requirements and provide respon- 
sive support, logisticians must possess a broad operational 
perspective, superior technical skills, initiative, flexibility, 
and a notable sense of innovation. Logisticians must thor- 
oughly understand the commander's intent and concept of op- 
erations in order to formulate the functional and detailed 
logistic plans. They must have a thorough knowledge of tac- 
tics and operational art and understand how the commander 
thinks — factors which do not always maximize the potential 
for logistic efficiency.^ Knowledge of the plan and com- 
mander's intent facilitates the anticipation of requirements. 
Situational awareness and tactical experience alert the logisti- 
cian to the possibilities of what might happen in the fluid bat- 
tlespace. This is not a new concept. In an April 6, 1864, letter 
to the Commissary General, General William T. Sherman de- 
scribed the ideal commissary officer as one who "would con- 
verse with me freely, learn my plans, the strength of my 
various columns, routes of march, nature of supplies, and eve- 
rything, and who could direct the harmonious working of the 
whole machine. "^° Moreover, "the logistics officer needs to 
position himself far enough forward to stay abreast of the 
tactical situation and react quickly to changing operational 
demands as he sees them developing. Being an efficient 
order-taker is not enough.'"' To be responsive, logistics must 
be flexible enough to accommodate the ebb and flow of op- 
erations. We must develop and nurture our logisticians to en- 
sure they have the necessary skills to make this happen. 


Logistics MCDP 4 


Doctrine represents the fundamental teachings of our profes- 
sion. It establishes the way we practice our profession, 
providing the basis for harmonious action and mutual under- 
standing. All Marine Corps doctrine is based on maneuver 
warfare. As discussed earlier, all our logistics capabilities are 
designed to enable us to carry out the philosophy of maneuver 
warfare. Likewise, logistics doctrine is derived from our doc- 
trine of maneuver warfare. As developed in this publication, 
logistics doctrine requires the execution of logistics in a man- 
ner which allows us to seek and exploit opportunities, to ex- 
pand, not restrict, our operational possibilities, to develop a 
concept of logistic support in accordance with the com- 
mander 's intent and the focus of effort, and to help generate 
and sustain a high tempo of operations. This logistics doc- 
trine establishes a common perspective for the conduct of the 
logistics function throughout the Marine Corps. It forms the 
foundation for the development of detailed tactics, techni- 
ques, and procedures for the execution of various logistics 
processes. Finally, logistics doctrine provides the basis for 
education and training in logistics. 


Professional military education is a continuous, progressive 
process of development. As leaders progresses, they come to 
understand the techniques and procedures of their particular 
military specialties and the interrelationships between differ- 
ent fields in the Marine Corps. Because logistics is an integral 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

and inseparable part of warfare, all Marines must develop a 
sound understanding of the importance of logistics, the inter- 
relationship of logistics and operations, the characteristics of 
our logistics capabilities, and the functioning of the logistics 
system. Marines must be educated in the capabilities and 
limitations of logistics, know how the logistics system works, 
and learn the procedures and techniques for requesting and 
receiving support. Most importantly, they must understand 
how and why logistics sets the limits on operations and what 
they must do to ensure effective support for their units. 

Likewise, the professional education of the logistician can- 
not focus merely on the techniques and procedures of the lo- 
gistics system; it must begin with the study of the larger art of 
war. Before logisticians can judge the soundness of a particu- 
lar approach to operational logistics, they must understand the 
design of the campaign. Before they can determine the utility 
of a particular technique for combat service support, they 
must understand the character of the supported force. Thus, 
the traditional means of studying the art of war as a whole, 
particularly the study of military history, theory, organization, 
technology, and geography, as well as the playing of war 
games, are as useful to logisticians as they are to any other 
military professionals. Building upon their knowledge of the 
larger art of war, logisticians need to develop particular in- 
sight into logistics itself. Resources available for this include 
studies of the role played by logistics in particular campaigns, 
war games in which players are required to consider logistic 
factors and make decisions about logistics, and the technical 


Logistics MCDP 4 

literature dealing with all of those things — from transporta- 
tion infrastructure to information technology — ^that have an 
impact on logistics. 


Training is the key to combat effectiveness. An effective lo- 
gistics capability is developed through continuous, progres- 
sive, and challenging training. All Marines must be trained to 
carry out their personal logistics responsibilities from the 
maintenance of individual weapons and equipment through 
the exercise of proper logistics discipline. Marines in the lo- 
gistics specialties must master the techniques pertinent to 
their particular occupational field. Combat and combat sup- 
port units must practice logistic procedures in conjunction 
with their regular training. Logistics units must conduct unit 
and collective training, developing teamwork while mastering 
the tactics and techniques required to provide effective sup- 
port. Integrated training among logistics units and the units 
they support is essential. Integrated training builds an appre- 
ciation for each other's capabilities, limitations, and require- 
ments while providing the opportunity to develop and refine 
support concepts and procedures. Finally, it is critical that 
training prepare Marines to function effectively in the envi- 
ronment of combat. Logistics capabilities must be stressed 
and tested in a realistic manner during training exercises. 
Exercises which use garrison resources or methods to provide 
logistic support do not provide effective training for logistics 
units and create a false sense of security in the minds of sup- 
ported commanders. 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 


While logistics as a whole, or even the support of a specific 
unit, cannot be reduced to a pattern, there is much to be 
gained by the use of standard procedures. Procedures assist in 
our effective conduct of logistic operations by helping to 
overcome friction and guiding actions in an environment of 
uncertainty. Well-designed and properly employed, standard 
procedures can simplify routine tasks and thus greatly in- 
crease the efficiency with which certain duties are fulfilled. 
They can also help impose discipline in the logistics process. 
Finally, standard procedures can help integrate logistics capa- 
bilities across the three levels of logistics and among the vari- 
ous agencies that participate in the logistics process. The 
closer the resemblance between the forms, practices, and pro- 
cedures used within the Marine Corps and those of the out- 
side world, the easier it will be for Marines to coordinate with 
outside agencies, businesses, facilities, and equipment. 

Standard procedures are, however, a double-edged sword. 
Poorly designed or improperly employed, standard proce- 
dures can deprive logisticians of the power to act. Our use of 
logistic procedures is always guided by the commander 's in- 
tent and the priorities which result from the application of 
that intent or other commander 's guidance. Those who use a 
procedure must be able to understand its purpose as well as 
the methodology behind what they are doing. This under- 
standing not only increases the chances that the procedure 
will be used properly but also reduces the temptation to work 
around the system when there is no need to. In addition, a 


Logistics MCDP 4 

procedure whose purpose and function are well understood is 
less likely to be used in circumstances where it does more 
harm than good. 

Our logistic procedures should be designed for simplicity 
and speed. They should be designed for simplicity so that we 
can master them easily and perform them quickly under con- 
ditions of uncertainty and stress. They should be designed for 
speed so that we can generate tempo. 


The Marine Corps employs a basic organization for the con- 
duct of operations, the MAGTF. Every MAGTF has an inher- 
ent combat service support capability. However, the specific 
combat service support capabilities resident in a particular 
MAGTF will be tailored to the anticipated requirements of 
the MAGTF 's mission. Thus, Marine logistics organizations 
reflect the central requirements of all Marine organizations: 
deployability and the flexibility to task- organize. In develop- 
ing the logistics organization appropriate to a particular 
situation, we attempt to ensure unity of effort, effective com- 
mand and control, efficiency in the employment of resources, 
responsiveness to the supported units, and flexibility to adapt 
to changing circumstances. 

In peacetime, the organization of most logistics units is 
based on a particular logistics function: supply, maintenance, 
motor transport, medical, and engineering battalions are ex- 
amples. This type of organization provides efficiency in the 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

delivery of services in response to a wide variety of garri- 
son, contingency, or training and exercise requirements. For 
operations, our logistics organization usually combines a 
number of functional capabilities into a single unit. Task- 
organized combat service support elements or detachments 
provide logistics capabilities tailored to the anticipated re- 
quirements of specific operational units. 

This organizational concept helps provide commanders 
with the support they need while using limited logistic re- 
sources effectively and efficiently to carry out the overall op- 
erational design. However, implementing this type of 
organizational concept presents a different challenge than em- 
ploying a single, standard logistics organization. Command- 
ers of logistics units must be able to provide manned, trained, 
and equipped components of their units capable of operating 
independently from the parent organization. Logistics person- 
nel must be flexible and creative in their ability to tailor their 
organizations and equipment for a variety of missions and en- 
vironments. Finally, they must thoroughly understand their 
own capabilities as well as how their capabilities complement 
those of other logistics units in supporting the overall opera- 
tion in order to rapidly create an effective, integrated combat 
service support element. 

The flexibility and capability inherent in Marine logistics 
organizations was demonstrated during Operation Desert 
Storm. To support the 92,000 Marines participating in Desert 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Storm, the Marine Corps deployed two full force service sup- 
port groups made up of almost 14,000 Marines and Sailors. 
The 1st Force Service Support Group primarily carried out 
general support logistics functions for the entire Marine expe- 
ditionary force. It was organized largely along functional 
lines and ensured the receipt of services from the ports and 
airfields and their delivery to the major tactical formations.'^ 
The 2d Force Service Support Group provided direct support 
to the combat forces. It was organized into a number of task- 
organized combat service support detachments. The capabili- 
ties of each of these detachments were tailored to the needs of 
the supported operational unit and appropriate elements of the 
combat service support detachment were designed to accom- 
pany the supported unit as it advanced into Kuwait. The result 
was a fully integrated logistics organization which provided 
the full range of logistic support from the arrival of resources 
in theater through the delivery of specific supplies or services 
to units engaged in tactical evolutions. 

Equipment and Technology 

Equipment used by the Marine Corps must be supportable. In 
developing new weapons or systems, logistics considerations 
should be balanced with performance characteristics to re- 
duce rather than increase logistics requirements whenever 
possible. To meet the requirements of a force-in-readiness, 
our equipment must be deploy able by our strategic, opera- 
tional, and tactical transportation systems. To function in the 
expeditionary environment, our equipment should be efficient 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

to operate and easy to maintain. We should pursue standardi- 
zation to ease the problems of interoperability and increase 
the efficiency of the logistics systems. Standardization, how- 
ever, is not an end in itself. The case of the officer who pre- 
vented Union acquisition of repeating rifles during the 
American Civil War illustrates the limits of standardization. 
In this case, the desire to preserve a single standard for rifle 
ammunition prevented the acquisition of a weapon that would 
have had a revolutionary impact on the battlefield. Finally, in 
procuring weapons and equipment, we must take a long-term 
approach; we must buy not only the individual weapons or 
systems but the maintenance capabilities, parts, and training 
required to keep the equipment operational throughout its life 

Like other Marines, logisticians make use of a great deal of 
equipment. Like other military equipment, that used by logis- 
ticians should be simple, robust, and adaptable. In addition, 
because of the close connection between logistics and the ci- 
vilian worlds of commerce and industry, equipment used in 
military logistics often has to be compatible with existing 
standards of size, weight, data transmission, voltage, and the 
like. This leads to a strong prejudice in favor of using off-the- 
shelf rather than custom-designed equipment for the perform- 
ance of logistics functions. 

Technology is becoming increasingly important in the exe- 
cution of all military functions. We employ technology in lo- 
gistics to enhance the performance of our logistics personnel. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

In this way, logistics information systems act as a force multi- 
plier in the battlespace. They enhance logistic planning and 
execution by helping to process support requests, track re- 
sources, store consumption rates and usage data, estimate 
future requirements, develop schedules, and monitor the 
progress of ongoing activities. Logistics information systems 
contribute to situational awareness by exchanging detailed in- 
formation among various logistic elements as well as among 
logistics j operations, and plans sections. These systems also 
aid in communicating decisions concerning the allocation, 
distribution, and movement of assets. We use technology to 
automate routine functions and improve the flow and value of 
information within the system. At the same time, we realize 
that technology is a tool to assist us; technology does not pro- 
vide the understanding and judgment required to operate an 
effective logistics system. 


Logistics is an integral and inseparable part of war. Our ap- 
proach to logistics recognizes and accepts war as a complex, 
uncertain, disorderly, and time-competitive clash of wills and 
seeks to provide the commander with the physical means to 
win in this environment. We seek logistics capabilities that 
extend our operational limits and that allow us to anticipate 
requirements while remaining flexible, adaptable, and respon- 
sive to the changing conditions in the battlespace. Marine 


MCDP 4 Creating Effective Logistics 

logistics capabilities are based upon our warfighting philoso- 
phy of maneuver warfare. Our logistics support and enhance 
the conduct of operations which are oriented on the enemy, 
have a specific focus of effort, are conducted in accordance 
with the commander's intent, and help generate and maintain 
a high tempo of operations. Marine logistics are expedition- 
ary in nature and naval in character. They are built on core 
capabilities at the strategic, operational, tactical levels; they 
are conducted through integrated and flexible planning and 
the exercise of responsive command and control. People are 
the foundation of Marine logistics. Marine logistics depends 
upon the exercise of leadership, discipline, attention to detail, 
and responsiveness by both the users of the logistics system 
and the persons who work within that system. Our doctrine, 
education, training, organization, procedures, and equipment 
provide the means for implementing Marine logistics. These 
components of our logistics capability reflect the unique re- 
quirements of maneuver warfare and our expeditionary na- 
ture. Together with our personnel, they provide a common 
basis for the conduct of effective logistic activities across the 
range of military operations. 


MCDP 4 Notes 

The Nature of Logistics 

1. British Army Doctrine Publication, Volume 3, Logistics 
(June 1996) p. 1-2. 

2. LtGen Alfred M. Gray, Jr., "Training the Fleet Marine 
Force," Marine Corps Gazette (July 1987) p. 15. Gen A. M. Gray, 
Jr., was 29th Commandant of the Marine Corps. 

3. Joint Pub 1-02, Department of Defense Dictionary of Mili- 
tary and Associated Terms (March 1994) p. 221. 

4. Hans von Seeckt, Gedanken eines Soldaten (Leipzig: Hase & 
Koehler, 1936) pp. 159-63. 

5. "The fact that in the study of the theory of war a variety of 
activities and functions are grouped together under the broad title of 
'logistics' does not necessarily mean that all of these functions 
should be grouped under 'the logistic division' or any similar single 
title in fleet, army, theater, or service organization, or in the admin- 
istration or operation of military services or forces," FMFRP 12-14, 
Logistics in the National Defense (April 1989) p. 9. 

6. Complex systems and complexity is discussed more fully in 
MCDP 6, Command and Control (October 1996) pp. 44-47. For ad- 
ditional reading on complex (adaptive) systems: See M. Mitchell 
Waldrop, Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Order 
and Chaos (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992); Roger Lewm, 
Complexity: Life on the Edge of Chaos (New York: Macmillan, 
1992); or Kevin Kelly, Out of Control: The New Biology of 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Machines: The Rise of Neo-Biological Civilization (Reading, MA: 
Addison- Wesley, 1994). 

7. David J. Frum, Logistical Factors in the Fall of South Viet- 
nam (Masters Thesis, Yale University, 1982) passim. 

8. This base (designated Al Khanjar) covered 1 1,280 acres and 
contained enough food, water, fuel, and ammunition to support 2 di- 
visions for 15 days. In addition, the base had the third largest Navy 
hospital in the world at that time. The base was created in response 
to a change in the MEF's operations plan which projected a simul- 
taneous attack by two Marine divisions. Work began on the base on 
6 Feb 1991 and was completed 14 days later, 4 days before the start 
of the ground war. For a detailed description, see BGen Charles C. 
Krulak's article "A War of Logistics," Proceedings (November, 
1991) pp. 55-57. 

9. For a full account of this operation see Col James L. Jones' 
article "Operation Provide Comfort: Humanitarian and Security As- 
sistance in Northern Iraq," Marine Corps Gazette (November 1991) 
pp. 98-107. 

10. The best short description of the relationship between the In- 
chon landing and the North Korean logistics system can be found in 
Kenneth Macksey, For Want of a Nail: The Impact on War of Logis- 
tics and Communications (London: Brassey's, 1989) pp. 160-164. 
For a more extensive treatment, see Charles Schrader, Communist 
Logistics in the Korean War (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, A 
Division of Greenwood Press, 1995). 


MCDP 4 Notes 

1 1 . For a full discussion of the human dimension in war as well 
as other characteristics of war discussed in this section, see MCDP 1 
(formerly FMFM 1 ), Warfighting, chapter 1 . 

12. Steve R. Waddell, United States Army Logistics: the Nor- 
mandy Campaign, 1944 (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994) 
p. 131. 

13. The best short discussion of the Chinese situation in Decem- 
ber of 1950 is Lynn Montross' and Capt (USMC) Nicholas A. Can- 
zona's The Chosin Reservoir Campaign, Volume III of U.S. Marine 
Operations in Korea, 1950-1953, (Washington, DC: Headquarters, 
U.S. Marine Corps, 1957). For the details of United Nations logis- 
tics, the best sources are contemporary articles published in such 
journals as Marine Corps Gazette, Military Review, Proceedings, 
Quartermaster Review, and Ordnance. For Chinese efforts to adapt 
their logistic system during the Korean war, see Shu Guangs Zhang, 
Mao's Military Romanticism, China and the Korean War, 
1950-1953 (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1995) pp. 

14. Waddell, p. 131. 

15. The discussion of logistics in North Africa in World War II 
is taken from the manuscript of Inside the Afrika Korps, edited by 
Bruce Gudmundsson, to be published by Greenhill Books, London, 
in 1997. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Logistics Theory 

1. Naval Doctrine Publication 4, Naval Logistics (January 
1995) p. 36. 

2. Col S. L. A. Marshall, The Soldier's Load and the Mobility 
of a Nation (Quantico, VA: The Marine Corps Association, 
1980) pp. 3^. 

3. For a full discussion of the evolution of logistics, see Martin 
van Creveld, Supplying War: Logistics from Wallenstein to Patton 
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977). 

4. J. F. C. Fuller, The Conduct of War, 1789-1961; A Study of 
the French, Industrial, and Russian Revolutions on War and Its 
Conduct (Minerva Press, 1968) pp. 22-23. 

5. For a full account of Forward Operating Base Cobra, see 
Tom Taylor, Lightning in the Storm: The 101st Air Assault Division 
in the Gulf War (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1994). 

6. Edward Hagerman, The American Civil War and the Origins 
of Modern Warfare: Ideas, Organization, and Field Command 
(Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1992) pp. 246-247. 

7. FMFRP 12-34-V, History of U.S. Marine Corps Operations 
in World War II: Victory and Occupation, Volume F (August 1989) 
p. 70. 


MCDP 4 Notes 

8. Charles R. Smith, Angels From the Sea: Relief Operations 
in Bangladesh, 1991 (Washington, DC: Headquarters, U.S. Marine 
Corps, History and Museums Division, 1995). 

9. Charles W. Koburger, Jr., Sea Power in the Falklands, 
Chapter 7, "Logistics" (New York: Praeger, 1983). 

10. For a full discussion of the importance of command and con- 
trol and the makeup and functioning of a command and control sys- 
tem, see MCDP 6, chapter 1 . 

11. FMFRP12-14,p. 153. 

12. Kenneth W. Condit, "Marine Supply in Korea," Marine 
Corps Gazette (January. 1953) pp. 48-55. 

13. Waddell,p. 145. 

14. For a full discussion of efficiency and effectiveness in mili- 
tary logistics, see FMFRP 12-14, p. 317 and William G. Pagonis 
with Jeffery L. Cruikshank, Moving Mountains: Lessons in Leader- 
ship and Logistics from the Gulf War (Boston, MA: Harvard Busi- 
ness School Press, 1992) p. 150. 

15. Cpl Joseph F. O'Brien, "Logistics Roots," Logistics Spec- 
trum (Summer 1990) pp. 7-11. 


Logistics MCDP 4 

Creating Effective Logistics 

1. Gen Carl E. Mundy, Jr. "Naval Expeditionary Forces: Step- 
ping Lightly," Marine Corps Gazette (February 1993) p. 14. Gen 
C. E. Mundy, Jr., was 30th Commandant of the Marine Corps. 

2. BGen James A. Brabham, "Training, Education Were the 
Keys," Proceedings (November 1991) pp. 51-54. MajGen Brabham 
was Commanding General, 1st Service Support Group, durmg Op- 
eration Desert Shield/Desert Storm. 

3. For a full discussion of maneuver warfare, see MCDP 1 (for- 
merly FMFM 1), Warfighting, chapter 4. 

4. From an unpublished work. The Logistics of the British Ex- 
peditionary Force, 1914-1918, chapter 7, by Ian Brown. For a de- 
scription of the paralysis of the operational command system, see 
Tim Travers, The Killing Ground: The British Army, the Western 
Front, and the Emergence of Modern Warfare, 1900-1918 (London: 
Allen &Unwin, 1987). 

5. Per Joint Pub 4-0, Doctrine for Logistic Support of Joint Op- 
erations (January 1995) p. 1-7, each Service is responsible for the 
logistic support of its own force, except when logistic support is 
otherwise provided for by agreements with national agencies or al- 
lies, or by assignments to common, joint, or cross-servicing. 

6. The levels of planning are discussed in detail in chapter 2 of 
MCDP 5, Planning. 


MCDP 4 Notes 

7. For a complete discussion of the relationship between plan- 
ning and command and control, see MCDP 5, chapter 1, and MCDP 
6, chapters. 

8. For a full discussion of the snowball effect, see FMFRP 
12-14, pp. 102-113. For further discussion of the role of discipline 
in logistics, see FMFRP 12-14, pp. 185-195. 

9. LtCol H. T. Hayden and LtCol G. I. Wilson, "The Tail that 
Wags the Dog," Proceedings (October 1990) p. 52. 

10. See George C. Thorpe, Pure Logistics: The Science of War 
Preparation (Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, 
1986) p. 24 for a discussion on the supply of Sherman's army dur- 
ing the Atlanta campaign. 

11. Hayden and Wilson, p. 52. 

12. The lessons learned from the use of this particular organiza- 
tional arrangement are being incorporated into a concept for 
operational-level logistic support. The organization which provides 
operational-level logistic support will be designated the Marine Lo- 
gistics Command (MLC). 


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